working at writing

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This LA Times piece on writing by J Robert Lennon observes that "Writers, by and large, do not do a great deal of writing:"

We may devote a large number of hours per day to writing, yes, but very little of that time is spent typing the words of a poem, essay or story into a computer or scribbling them onto a piece of paper.

Recently, I timed myself during a typical four-hour "writing" session, in order to determine how many minutes I spend writing. The answer: 33. That's how long it took to type four pages of narrative and dialogue for my novel-in-progress, much of which will eventually end up discarded.

Most of my writing sessions--if they can truly be called that--are like his, especially what he later describes as "Frenetic typing accompanied by quiet sinister chuckling." Lennon also notes that despite life's intrusions, "writers are always working:"

To allow our loved ones to know that we are working when we are supposed to be engaged in the responsibilities of ordinary life would mark us as the narcissists and social misfits we are. And so we have invented "writing time" as a normalizing concept, to shield ourselves from the critical scrutiny we deserve. Indeed, even writers who don't write fiction are engaged in the larger fiction of imitating normal humans whose professional activities are organized into discrete blocks of time.

A big h/t to Wil Wheaton, who's no slouch as a writer himself, for linking to Lennon's article. My Quote of the Day is from Truman Capote, who was dismayed at the rapidity with which Jack Kerouac could put words on paper:

"It is not writing. It is only typing." (Lawrence Grobel, Conversations with Capote, p. 32)

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on June 25, 2009 10:54 PM.

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