Rushing something that shouldn’t be rushed.

41srsp5tw6l_aa240_.jpgI’ve been making my way through the Paris Review Interviews (Vol. 1) that I got for Christmas. I read an interview, I put it down and read a novel. Then I pick it up again and read another interview. Today I read the interview with novelist and memoirist Robert Stone.

The interview covers a lot of ground, from Vietnam to the Beats, to schizophrenia, to American culture. The part I’m interested in the most when I read any of these interviews is what the author says about his writing process and his reading material. I’m fascinated by the different ways writers get their work done.* And the way that they view their writing process.

Robert Stone’s view of writing:

It’s goddamn hard. Nobody really cares whether you do it or not. You have to make yourself do it. I’m very lazy and I suffer as a result. Of course, when it’s going well there’s nothing in the world like it. But it’s also very lonely. When you do something you’re really pleased with, you’re in the crazy position of being exhilarated all by yourself. … It’s hard to come down from a high in your work – it’s one of the reasons writers drink.

Stone said he has no particular rituals when getting ready to write, but:

I do need physical order, because I’m addressing the insubstantiality of structures – that’s where the blank page starts. No top, no bottom, no sides. I find it hard to sit still. I pace a lot. I’ve got to have a pen in my hand when I’m not actually typing.

He goes on to say that when something becomes elusive he switches to writing in longhand, “in order to be precise.” Typewriters and word processors (this interview is from 1985) can force you, he said, to rush “something that shouldn’t be rushed,” causing a loss of nuance, richness or lucidity. “The pen compels lucidity.”

*There’s an article in the current issue of Poets & Writers on this very topic.


5 thoughts on “Rushing something that shouldn’t be rushed.

  1. “… it’s one of the reasons writers drink.”

    I never really thought about it that way, but it seems pretty obvious in retrospect.

    I think your path is clear, Elizabeth… ;)

  2. Clearly!

    You know, it was sort of misleading of me to end that quote there. I don’t mean to make Stone sound like a drunk.
    Actually, he went on to say that the problem with drinking after the writing high is that you can’t function to write the next day. … Which is why he now goes to bed early instead.

  3. Reminds me of EJ’s conviction that he wrote papers better with a bottle of wine on hand. Which perhaps explains his failure to graduate with any type of coherent degree and subsequent re-entry into college.

    C’mon EB, we’ve got faith in you, you can do it! Crank something out baby! (I’ve had a long day at work and I’m losing coherence…)

  4. Thanks for the Robert Stone quote. Having him state that writing is damn hard and a lonely business makes me feel a little better about the whole deal.



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