I can only write well if I am well-caffeinated, the moon is gibbous, rain has recently fallen in southern California and there are no distractions.
So, you see: basically never.
And this has been a week of distractions. A few things going on. A trip to pack for. A couple of squirrelly houseguests.
I’m in good company when it comes to being easily distractible. Franz Kafka once said “…one can never be alone enough when one writes…there can never be enough silence around one when one writes…even night is not night enough.”
When you write, even only once a week, even only in an obscure blog, you discover a few things. Mainly, that writing, and pushing a boulder up a mountain, only for it to roll down and have to start anew, are pretty much the same thing. Sisyphean. Punishing work. It does not come easily, regardless of what Matthew Weiner would have you believe about Don Draper zenning out at Esalen and having the “I want to teach the world to sing” brainstorm for Coca-Cola. I think that only happens on TV, or at least that’s what I want to think.
I suppose, for some writers, the words do come easily. Thomas Wolfe famously presented editor Maxwell Perkins with a manuscript so long it was stored in a steamer trunk. Originally called O Lost: A Story of the Buried Life, we know the book today by the title Look Homeward, Angel. Perkins was the editorial corollary to Michelangelo: he used his red pen to chisel away everything that did not look like a literary classic and we are all the better for it.
Writers known for their work ethic include Stephen King, who apparently writes ten pages a day without fail. Ernest Hemingway wrote 500 words per day (I’ll take his 500 to King’s ten pages any day, but that’s just me) and left us with this gem of a quote about the process: “The first draft of anything is shit.”
Edith Wharton, along with Mark Twain and Marcel Proust, wrote well, often, and usually lying down. Truman Capote was a member of this club, as well, claiming to be a “completely horizontal author” because he couldn’t think and write unless he was lying down.”
This is no big deal when you consider that Victor Hugo, the celebrated author of Les Miserables, had a penchant for writing naked. The story goes that, in a time crunch for completing The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hugo demanded that his valet take away all his clothes so he would not be able to leave the house. Hugo wrote his book while wrapped in a blanket.
I suppose it doesn’t really fly to say you can’t write because you don’t have time. William Faulkner penned the brilliant As I Lay Dying while literally burning the midnight oil as he toiled away on the night shift at a power plant. Poet William Carlos Williams worked full time as a physician while also producing some of the most significant poetry of the twentieth century. Abraham Verghese, also a physician, somehow found the time to write the exceedingly fine novel Cutting for Stone.
So I realize I am without excuses for not having a post this week. But, as I am literally tossing the last items into the suitcase and heading out the door (goodbye dogs! goodbye chickens!) I hope you can forgive me. More later! I promise to send a post card!