In a piece titled “GET TO WORK,” Claire Davenport writes,
Ernest Hemingway once said writing was like bleeding, which means that it either comes naturally or painfully. Or both. A fellow journalist once told me that if you are not writing every day, then you are an amateur. I don’t talk to him much anymore.
I do write every day, but not about the characters born in my imagination, who have accidentally killed a tramp or crashed a car, only to disappear into oblivion. I write about companies who decry regulation and calculate potential losses. I admit I used to blame these corporations for the fact that I hadn’t published a novel yet.
But I recently dropped the grudge. There is a tried and tested way to stop the dilly-dallying. It does not involve buying more books about writing or seeking more matter-of-fact advice about what does and does not make a real writer. It involves reading your work to people who share your ambitions—or delusions . . .
I can’t help but find that ever so sweet and misguided. By contrast:
What are your writing habits? Have certain things changed?
The one thing that hasn’t changed, and never will, is the total anarchy and the disorder. I have absolutely no method. When I feel like writing a story I let everything drop; I write the story. And sometimes when I write a story, in the month or two that follows I will write two or three more. In general, the stories come in series. Writing one leaves me in a receptive state, and then I “catch” another. You see the sort of image I use, but it’s like that; the story drops inside of me. But then a year can go by where I write nothing . . . nothing. Of course, these last few years I have spent a good deal of my time at the typewriter writing political articles. The texts I’ve written about Nicaragua, everything I’ve written about Argentina, have nothing to do with literature—they’re militant things.
Of the famous/popular writers I’ve read who claim to “write every day,” I can’t say their work, in general, has been all that memorable. I think the gold standard here is David Mitchell, who seems to have the most admirable work ethic of any writer currently working, but whose product feels ever so craftsman like.
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