My Archival Wanderings: Kurt Vonnegut

Hi Writers,
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,

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7 thoughts on “My Archival Wanderings: Kurt Vonnegut

  1. Chris

    Kurt Vonnegut was also one of the first writers I stumbled upon. I was an exchange student in Sweden during my junior year in highschool. I was feeling lonely for anything American and then I found Vonnegut’s, "Breakfast of the Champions". It was the wildest thing I had ever read and it made this lonely American girl smile.

  2. Kurt L. Hanson

    Kurt was one of the first authors I read, probably only because his first name was the same as mine.

    Odd that not a single fact about the book of his I’d read can be recalled at this very moment. I also read the book his son wrote a book about his schizophrenia …, I recall a Volkswagon now …

    An axe to grind …, and to be passionate towards something. And the years of age to dull the message so as to not cut too deep, and to temper the words palatable for an audience to ingest.

    I find my writing to be more of an experiment, where I’ll watch for how the results of my writing unfolds in the minds of others. I feel I’m sort of done learning; gotta start doing the best way I know how.

    And practice all the time …, like now, write (sic) here in this blog.


  3. Scott B.

    Very well quoted; writing "is" more than just conveying the story. Caring about things equates a sense of passion for what one writes.

    Now I’m embarrassed. 🙂

    Not only do I love reading here, but indeed, I learn here as well.

    (This comment has been written by a student.)


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