Writing Fiction: Does It Feel Indulgent?

David Mizner

In the literary fiction world especially, it’s often taken as an article of faith that writing is an intrinsically important activity to be engaged in. So when writer David Mizner (@DavidMizner) challenged this view at a writing workshop, he was taken to task for it:

When I was twenty-nine, shortly after I started writing fiction, I went to a two-day workshop. The first night, a group of writers—including an accomplished or at least published novelist (I forget who it was; I’m not choosing not to name him)—were sitting around talking about the “writing life.” Loose after a few drinks, I asked them if they ever questioned the value of writing fiction. “It feels indulgent,” I said. There was an awkward silence, as if I’d said something borderline racist or taken off my pants. Finally, the published author suggested that I might not have the stuff to be a fiction writer.

Mizner goes on to discuss his ambivalence about fiction writing, which is partly tied to fiction possibly being less relevant and powerful in today’s culture. Read the full piece over at Glimmer Train’s site.

Also at Glimmer Train this month:

Posted in Creativity + Inspiration and tagged , .

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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[…] In the literary fiction world, it's often taken as an article of faith that writing is an intrinsically important activity to be engaged in. Is it?  […]


I will say, when I first started writing seriously, I kept it to myself. As a family that was struggling financially, self-indulgent is exactly how writing felt.

Sandy Hogarth
Sandy Hogarth

Perhaps it’s indulgent but if so I wonder why we indulge in something so tough. I have a PhD but that was nothing like as tough as writing a novel, perhaps because I knew from the start where I was going with the research (into power and trust)and it’s a very structured process. Opposite of creative writing (my messy way anyway) and I had to unlearn the ways of writing research. So, no, I don’t think it’s indulgent. And what sort of life would it be without all these wonderful books. Sandy

Frances Caballo

I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons (there are only 12 episodes) yesterday and she was interviewing Brené Brown. Brené discussed how inspiration and creativity are the work of the soul and the consequence to not follow that inspiration is costly. Inspiration promises nothing. Whether we are inspired to write fiction, nonfiction, literary or genre novels, the act of creation is the call of the soul and we need to heed it. I don’t consider my secretive fiction writing or my blogging indulgent. Was it indulgent of David Mizner to write that blog post? Nothing about inspiration is indulgent.… Read more »


Mizner closes with, “My semi-educated guess is that there are indeed openings for ambitious, explicitly political novels. We need them. So write one, would you?” I don’t read a lot of explicitly political novels, but I do know at least one person writing them (Barry Eisler, and I only know this because I recently interviewed him). As for the value of fiction beyond a person’s artistic need to create it, Mizner is probably right that we don’t have a modern-day Uncle Tom’s Cabin or The Jungle, but that might be for the same reason we don’t have a modern-day Citizen… Read more »


Writing is like creating your own little universe where you are god. Whether or not that’s indulgent depends on the mission behind it. I don’t think indulgent is bad though. Unless you keep it all to yourself.