The Private Thrill

Depending on how well you wrote and how often you changed jobs or assignments, other writers came in and out of your life. Some of them were already famous and others would be soon, but celebrity didn’t matter because you knew something together—the private thrill that comes from writing a clear and unique sentence. The craft of it. James Salter liked to “rub words in his hand, to turn them around and feel them.” Writing is exactly that, and there is no work like it because it is so complicated to know when you are done. Riffing about writing journalism, Renata Adler wrote, in her novel Speedboat, about giving “a piece of sugar to a raccoon, which in its odd fastidiousness would wash that sugar in a brook till there was nothing left.

- Terry McDonell, The Accidental Life: An Editor's Notes on Writing and Writers