Does one need to be dissatisfied to be a writer?

Quote of the day – Pamuk on ‘dissatisfaction’

I was reading the “The New Lyric Studies” section of the January 2008 edition of PMLA but found the interview with Orhan Pamuk interesting as well. In it, Pamuk talks about his literary tradition, his Turkish identity, the influence of Edward Said’s Orientalism on his writing, the head-scarf issue, his notion of home (he says he ‘felt not “at home” as Adorno suggested’) and his memoir Istanbul. Lastly, he responds to the question ‘Does one need to be dissatisfied to be a writer[?]‘ (see the full question and Pamuk’s answer below). Pamuk concludes the interview with these words: ‘Of course, I am dissatisfied, but then I am happy with my dissatisfaction.’
I agree with Pamuk that one needs to be dissatisfied to be a writer. It sparks creativity and is a general state of mind. It is not important what one is dissatisfied about, although of course the subject of dissatisfaction will enter one’s discourse. Equally important for the writer, I think, is the counterpoint of dissatisfaction — contentment. Somewhere a balance ought to be struck. I am not entirely sure if one can (or should) be ‘happy’ with one’s dissatisfaction, however. To be happy with your dissatisfaction (that is, shall I say, ‘dissatisfaction contained’) sounds like an oxymoron. Any thoughts?
Mirze: Does one need to be dissatisfied to be a writer, about life, about parents, about country, about neighbors, about money?
Pamuk: Of course, no one is satisfied anyway, but then most of the time what is interesting is how we represent our dissatisfaction first to ourselves, then how we understand it, how we elaborate it, analyze it. I think everyone is dissatisfied, even the happiest person, but then thinking is explaining our dissatisfaction, first to ourselves, then to our culture, to the people who are with us. Of course, I am dissatisfied, but then I am happy with my dissatisfaction. (180)
–Mirze, Esra Z. “Implementing Disform: An Interview with Orhan Pamuk”, PMLA 123.1 (2008):176-180.

One thought on “Does one need to be dissatisfied to be a writer?

  1. Interesting question. And Pamuk gives an interesting answer!

    If dissatisfaction reflects the distance between a desire and its fullfillment, then it is fair to say that writing helps us make the leap! If satisfaction equals nirvana, then when, why and who for would one write? Of course, there are subtler hues between these two poles. I like your point about balance…


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