On July 10, 2011, the New York Times Book Review printed a great little essay by Roger Rosenblatt, called “The Writer as Detective.” I liked it so much it’s pinned up beside me at the writing desk.

Here’s an abridgement of one eminently quotable paragraph:

“All writers are mystery writers…Like them, we muck about in a world studded with clues, neck-deep in motives. Like them, we falter in our investigations and follow wrong leads…Only when we have finished a piece of work do we know true shamus loneliness, realizing that the chase is over and that no one has been watching us but us.”

It’s sums up well what it’s like to be a writer. Namely, that it’s a dead lonely business. Not only is there no one to talk to most of the time, there’s no way to know if so many of the things you languish over—the choice of a word, the resonance of a metaphor—will be enjoyed or overlooked by readers. Worse, half the time you don’t even know if what you’re scribbling will make it into print.

At the same time, however, there’s the detective’s drive to get to the bottom of things, to arrive at an ending no matter what. Like a detective you need to flesh out motives. Why did this happen? What’s the connection? Why did she do that?

The writer as detective. Read the whole essay here.