On Choice of Profession


Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Dear WordSmith,

Did you, as a child, love to draw and write stories as soon as you could handle pencils and crayons?  Did you follow adult counsel about getting a good education to earn a living wage, dream of writing while doing anything but and live a practical life that appreciated art by others while neglecting your own?

Through this series that revisits 19th century authors, BriteLites invites discussion of topics that remain important to WordSmiths.

On The Choice of Profession

And perhaps there is no subject on which a man should speak so gravely as that industry, whatever it may be, which is the occupation or delight of his life; which is his tool to earn or serve with; and which, if it be unworthy, stamps himself as a mere incubus of dumb and greedy bowels on the shoulders of laboring humanity.

On that subject alone even to force the note might lean to virtue’s side.  It is to be hoped that a numerous and enterprising generation of writers will follow and surpass the present one; but it would be better if the stream were stayed, and the roll of our old, honest English books were closed, than that esurient book-makers should continue and debase a brave tradition and lower, in their own eyes, a famous race. Better that our serene temples were deserted than filled with trafficking and juggling priests.

There are two just reasons for the choice of any way of life: the first is inbred taste in the chooser; the second some high utility in the industry selected.  Literature, like any other art, is singularly interesting to the artist; and, in a degree peculiar to itself among the arts, it is useful to mankind.  These are sufficient justifications for any young man or woman who adopts it as the business of his life.  I shall not say much about the wages.  A writer can live by his writing.  If not so luxuriously as by other trades, then less luxuriously.  The nature of the work he does all day will more affect his happiness than the quality of his dinner at night.

Comments Invited.

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