Raymond Chandler was an American who spent his childhood in England, went to war, worked in the oil business, and then became the most boring guy you can imagine.

He stayed home a lot with his wife, who was some years older than Ray. They didn’t hang out with many people. Cissy Chandler had Issues. The Chandlers’ big hobby was moving—they lived in dozens of places in California. Working from home, Chandler futzed around, complained to the gardeners and cooks who came and went, and played cards. He had supplies of everything on hand, like your dad’s father who had boxes of batteries in a drawer in his workshop where all the tools were on hooks on pegboard.

THE LIFE OF RAYMOND CHANDLER by Frank MacShane is a brisk walk through the life of the writer of THE LONG GOODBYE and THE BIG SLEEP. His character, Philip Marlowe, was not the businessman who found he had some scruples like Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, but a contemporary knight walking down ‘mean streets, alone.’ Chandler’s detective was a Romantic, and some prefer Hammett’s no-nonsense approach, but there’s room for both. I happen to prefer Chandler’s books to Hammett’s, more for the plots than the style.

Reading the MacShane bio, one thing keeps coming through: Chandler had had some colorful experiences, but when he became a writer late in life he settled down and lived like any guy who plugs away from nine to five. (I’m leaving out a lot of details, like how his alcoholism intersected with his work.) Chandler’s life is an example for writers who think a lot about Being A W*R*I*T*E*R but don’t DO all that much writing.

If you want to write to communicate while being true to yourself, you gotta sit your butt in the chair and write, for hours. No Internet, no phone calls, no text messages.

It’s something you are either into, or you’re not, and if you’re not, you won’t keep at it. If you are, it’s not going to be ‘fun,’ but creating anything great isn’t fun–it’s compelling. It’s thrilling. It’s something you think about when you’re not actively DOING it, because it takes hold of you, and think of that–something YOU made, as it’s coming to life, possesses YOU. Not some outside thing, but something created from thoughts, put on a screen, so others can take it into their brains and light a fire in there. That’s creation, and you ask any mother if creation is fun or easy.

You treat it as a job, and you keep at it, day after day. Chandler had a tough life in many ways, but he created work which has influenced many writers, to this day. That doesn’t happen when you write because it’s fun.

You see, it’s work.