Is writing like homework?

Reading time: About 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I address the question: is writing like homework?

Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who was co-author of the 1980 and 1983 Star Wars films The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, once made a memorable comment about writing.

He said, “Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.”

As a child, I loathed homework (didn’t much like it as a parent, either.) It felt mindless and boring to me — busy work, designed to keep me out of trouble and to prevent me from reading the novels I loved.

And, perhaps not incidentally, I also hated writing until about 20 years ago. So Kasdan’s comment had a double resonance for me. I encountered it again recently in a column by Austin Kleon, in which he also cites some other memorable comments about writing.

I particularly enjoyed one from mystery writer Shirley Jackson, in her lecture titled Memory and Delusion. (You may have read Jackson’s famous short story, “The Lottery,” in high school.) Here is part of what she said:

“I cannot find any patience for those people who believe that you start writing when you sit down at your desk and pick up your pen and finish writing when you put down your pen again.”

Jackson goes on to describe how writers are “always on,” noticing people, gestures, situations and anything else that might be fodder for writing.

Now that I enjoy writing (for me, and many of my clients, the secret is to stop editing while you write), I delight in Jackson’s description of the ‘work’ of writing. Not nearly as dull as homework. More like fun-work, actually!

Scroll to Top