Tributes and Rewards

“In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigor it will give your style.”

- Sydney Smith

I’m still working away at the Letters of E.B. White. It’s fantastic reading, both as a study in prose style and as a glimpse at the life of a witty and thoughtful man. In a letter dated March 30, 1954, E.B. pays tribute to editors and to those who put up with being married to writers (in his case, one and the same – his wife, Katharine Angell, was a career editor for the New Yorker).

“Dear Miss Wiley:

My wife is helpful to me in my writing, but she does not write. She is an editor. An editor is a person who knows more about writing than writers do, but who has escaped the terrible desire to write. I have been writing since 1906 and it is high time I got over it. A writer, however, writes as long as he lives. It is the same with breathing except that it is bad for one’s health. Some of my writings have won prizes but awards of that sort are not very much fun or satisfaction and I would rather have a nice drink of ginger ale, usually. Writing does have its rewards but they do not come in packages.

Hope I’ve answered all your questions.


E.B. White”

His closing comment about the rewards of writing, as opposed to writing awards, is succinct yet rich. And I admire his drink of choice.


Categories: General.