I was heartbroken when one of my favorite writers of all time, Kurt Vonnegut, died last year. He was a real friend to writers and he granted several interviews to Writer’s Digest over the years.
In my archival wanderings, it was especially rewarding to come across this WD interview with Vonnegut (from the November 1985 issue of Writer’s Digest; by Michael Schumacher).
It was difficult to choose just one short excerpt because Vonnegut was/is infinitely quotable, but here’s one I think especially pertinent to writers. Enjoy.
WD: How do you see yourself?
VONNEGUT: I’ve customarily responded to life as I’ve seen something that made me very much want to write about it—not that it made me very much want to get into the writing profession.
WD: You’ve said that you have to have an ax to grind—
VONNEGUT: Well, you’ve got to have something to write about. I’ve taught writing at Iowa, Harvard, and City College in New York. One big problem is that people don’t have anything on their minds. They’re not concerned—which isn’t to say they need an ax to grind. Usually, a person with an ax to grind is kind of a crank of some kind, or a partisan of some kind. So I reject the ax to grind. But you must be passionate about some aspect of life, because it’s a high-energy performance to create something the size of a book. It takes energy and concentration—not an ax to grind. You should have something on your mind. You should have opinions on things. You should care about things.
So keep caring about things.
And Keep Writing,