I’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.