It’s more important to want to write than to want to be a writer. I find it illuminating that so many people tell me they want to be writers, but almost no one says, “I want to write.” There’s all the difference in the world. To want to be a writer, I think, has to do with fond daydreams about whatever we think a literary life is—awards ceremonies, and attractive book jackets. To want to write has to do with a desk, a computer, and a chair. It’s useful to keep a grip on this distinction.
The writing process? As far as I can tell, it means getting it wrong most of the time. It means looking with dismay at what you wrote yesterday, which seemed so good when you stood up at the end of your writing session. It means rereading a passage you are particularly fond of with dim, sinking dismay as you start to realize it really has nothing to do with your book, and however much you like it, it’s probably going to have to go. It often means putting aside almost every one of your original ambitions so that another, better ambition can take shape. It means, in short, a daily dose of humility.