“Writing, let us confess it unashamed, is fun. There are those who will tell you that it is an inspiration, they sing but as the linnet sings; there are others, in revolt against such priggishness, who will tell you it is a business like any other. Others, again, will assure you (heroically) that it is an agony, and they would sooner break stones – as well they might. But though there is something of inspiration in it, something of business, something, at times, of agony, yet, in the main, writing is just thrill; the thrill of exploring. The more difficult the country, the more untraversed by the writer, the greater (to me, anyhow) the thrill.”1
Of course, writing tends to be more of a thrill when the writer has a history of critical and commercial success, and knows his next work is eagerly awaited:
“He had always written what he wanted to write. His luck was that this was also what the public wanted to read.”2
A. A. Milne didn’t simply enjoy writing; he also believed writing (and writers) were of great value to society, and sometimes had the need to remind others of this:
“Authors have never been taken very seriously by their fellow-men. ‘A singer is a singer,’ the attitude seems to be, ‘a painter is a painter, and a sculptor sculpts; but dash it all, a writer only writes, which is a thing we all do every day of our lives, and the only difference between ourselves and Thomas Hardy is that Hardy doesn’t do anything else, whereas we are busy men with a job of real work to do.’ And since writing is, in a sense, the hobby, or at least the spare-time occupation of the whole world, it has become natural for the layman to regard the professional author as also engaged merely upon a hobby, the results of which, in accordance with the well-known vanity of the hobbyist, are free for the inspection of anyone kindly enough to take an interest in them.
For instance, you who read this would not think of asking a wine merchant, whose nephew had been at the same school as your son, for a free dozen of champagne on the strength of that slight connection; but you would not hesitate to ask an author, similarly connected, for a free article for some ephemeral publication in which you were interested, or for permission to perform his play without the usual payment of royalty. Indeed, you would feel that you would be paying him the same sort of compliment that I should be paying you if, dining at your house, I asked to see the fretwork soap-dish in your bathroom. ‘Oh, are you really interested?’ you would say. ‘Fancy your having heard about it. How awfully nice of you!”
This was after yet another of his tussles with the BBC, which paid nominal or no fees to authors when their works were broadcast, and took, according to him, the following attitude:
“If we pay you a fee, we won’t mention your name or your works or your publishers or anything about you, but if you will let us do it for nothing we will announce to our thousand million book-buying listeners where your book is to be bought. And if you don’t like it, you can leave it, because there are plenty of other authors about; and, if it came to the worst, we could write the things ourselves quite easily.”3
All the above quotes are from Ann Thwaite’s excellent biography of A. A. Milne, who was the author of Winnie-the-Pooh, When We Were Very Young, Peace with Honour and dozens of poems, articles, essays, plays and short stories.