Is Writing a Vice or a Virtue?

Woman reading

When you write at your leisure, when the children are asleep or in the evenings after work, and you do it because putting words on paper improves your disposition, without caring too much how good your writing is because you don’t plan to show it to anyone anyway, all is well.

But when you isolate yourself in a room, and lock the door and unplug the phone and maybe even drop out of school to write not only for yourself but for others too, in short, when you decide to become an author despite the odds, that’s when the troubles begin.

Writing Is a Vice

It is a parasite that grew out of your abysmal ego, and that you nourish with every sorrow, anger, or lust you feel, and that in time can sour your character forever.

The time you spend writing can be put to better use in other trades. You could become a doctor, a business man, or at least a lawyer. You could spend more time with your friends and family.

You could see more, hear more, feel more. You could have more lovers. But you seek gratification in this vice called writing thinking it will fill all the gaps that your own flaws leave in your life, and by doing so, you become less than what you could have been.

“Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure only death can stop it.” – Ernest Hemingway

Writing Is a Virtue

It clears the mind and soothes the aching heart and pacifies the hot blood and improves the disposition. It encourages you to find the story behind every person you meet. It makes you tolerant, open-minded, inquisitive.

It lets you take coarse chunks of life and smash them with your literary hammer and rearrange the fragments as you please, to make a beautiful mosaic, a story.

It is a mirror you can look into and discover your qualities and faults, and one that you can show others, to help them discover their qualities and faults. It is a gift that only few have, for as Dogberry puts it…

‘To be a well-favored man is the gift of fortune, but to write and read comes by nature.’

Writing – A Good Vice?

Writing becomes a vice when you abandon yourself to it. When you go to bed late at night eagerly awaiting morning, not to live, but to write. Writing becomes a virtue when you live first and then write. When you use it to make your life clearer, deeper, richer, prettier. When you enjoy ‘putting black on white’ with moderation.

But to become a great writer it seems to me that you must let writing become a vice. Without losing yourself in it you cannot find your other selves on paper, and create good characters, the backbone of every good story. The fact is this: many great writers suffered so they could write, and wrote so they could suffer.

Writing is my vice, I admit, but it’s the one I am most proud of.

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42 thoughts on “Is Writing a Vice or a Virtue?

      1. But the writer gets some satisfaction 😉 And you most definitely should! Your words are always wonderful and precious – and I with that kind of dedication (that almost makes it a vice) I truly believe you will get far!

  1. Good take on a vice a lot of us bloggers share. I’m reminded of Pieper’s book, Leisure the Basis of Culture; it’s better to pursue a worthwhile leisure than a host of other things, especially becoming a lawyer.

  2. Dear Vincent, (wonderful writing, by the way) I have stumbled across something called Hemi-Sync. If you google that with “Monroe Products”, you will find yourself in a world where you can turn on that “splendid isolation” in a moment. ‘just thought I’d share that with you. It is helping me control the right hemisphere of my brain.

  3. A provocative post, Vincent. You could say that writers such as yourself have made writing into a virtuous vice … And that is what many of us strive for in our writing lives 🙂

  4. I think you’re right. Writing must become a vice in order to be authentic. In fact, I think that applies to everything we do.

    ‘It encourages you to find the story behind every person you meet.’
    So… What’s my story?:)

    1. It’s a romance and it includes heaps of fashionable clothes, paintings dangling from the ceiling, little princes under the bed, boyfriends 7-cms-taller, German adventures, professional satisfactions and a rewarding career, Spanish sunlight, complicated relations with parents, and I think some self-doubts too, but only from the neck up. 🙂

      1. Hahaha! Self doubts from the neck up, you say? 😀 You’re provoking me to reveal myself, aren’t you?:) I’ll think about it. I will. I wanted to keep a bit of privacy but I see the internet is a tricky fellow… You proved it to me.

        I thought the story you’ll tell will be more complex and poetic. It’s very interesting though, I’d probably say something different. Pretty much different. I would say things you haven’t mentioned (perhaps you’re not aware of), and forget few or even most you pointed out.

        1. Yay! Julie will show some skin. 😛

          I wrote that comment on the go Julie, you know I’m busy. I could write a whole novel about you, and if you give the the occassion I will…

          I wanted to tease you a bit, that’s all. And I see I have succeeded!

          Big hug!

  5. It’s my vice back in college, now its a virtue after it. But I shall say we hold both. And the choice is always ours on how we let it. 🙂

    “It lets you take coarse chunks of life and smash them with your literary hammer and rearrange the fragments as you please, to make a beautiful mosaic, a story.” I totally agree…

  6. I get confused each day on whether it is my vice or a virtue, I never do come to a conclusion on my internal argument, I always choose to write more and it goes away.

    I try hard not to let my need to create come between me and my family time, sometimes I mingle the two, but when I am alone, all I do is write and hope that what I’m writing is pure and not forced.

    Thanks for the great article, reblogging on Grizz-Tion.

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