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From Ursula K. Le Guin’s “A Few Words to a Young Writer”

July 29, 2009

“Socrates said, ‘The misuse of language induces evil in the soul.’ He wasn’t talking about grammar. To misuse language is to use it the way politicians and advertisers do, for profit, without taking responsibility for what the words mean. Language used as a means to get power or make money goes wrong: it lies. Language used as an end in itself, to sing a poem or tell a story, goes right, goes towards the truth.

A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.

*

…Then when I got married, my husband never questioned my right to write. This is fairly rare, especially in husbands. My advice to young writers is, if you can’t marry money, at least don’t marry envy.

When I was young, the few older writers I knew were encouraging; and the writers who are my friends now are generous people with a strong sense of community. I keep away from writers who think art is a competition for fame, money, prizes, etc. What matters is the work.

*

Writing is my craft. I honor it deeply. To have a craft, to be able to work at it, is to be honored by it.”

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