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Updike: Famous writers from A to Z on writing

How much of a writer’s own personality goes into his or her work? And how does this contribute to (or detract from) creative authenticity? Do written words ring truest when they represent the author’s own personal hopes, dreams, conceptions, misconceptions, ideals, prejudices, and other idiosyncrasies?

American novelist and literary critic John Updike (1932-2009) apparently believed they do. Consider this Updike quotation:

“The measure of artistic merit is the length to which a writer is willing to go in following his own compulsions.”

John Updike may be best remembered for these popular works: Couples, Rabbit at Rest, Rabbit Is Rich, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit Remembered, Rabbit, Run, The Centaur, and The Witches of Eastwick.

According to Updike, author authenticity may trump other virtues (or lack thereof). Here’s another quote to support this idea:

“Writers may be disreputable, incorrigible, early to decay or late to bloom but they dare to go it alone.”

In the end, however, the Rabbit author would likely have said excellence is worth plenty, particularly when it is applied to one’s professional pursuit, as this Updike statement suggests:

“Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right or better.

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