"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Agony of Writing

I hate to write. I have to force myself every day to sit down and begin. This is the first thing that I always tell students, who have absorbed the peculiar modern notion that if you are practiced at something you must find it effortless and pleasurable. Sometimes they ask how I continue, and I reply, glibly, "Because of contractual obligation." But I only manage because I live a humdrum life, in which the drama takes place mainly on the page.
Anna Quindlen at the Wall St. Journal.
You don't know what it is to stay a whole day with your head in your hands trying to squeeze your unfortunate brain so as to find a word. Ideas come very easily to you, incessantly, like a stream. With me it is a tiny thread of water.... Ah, I certainly know the agonies of style.
Gustave Flaubert to George Sand, from The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters, p. 29. The book can be read in its entirety there. Is writing always an agony? Are any writers crowing about how easy it all is? I haven't found them. I wonder. Maybe we love to hear and read stories because then the work is done for us, and we love them in direct relation to how much work we have not had to do. It would explain the love of "doorstop" books. So much harder to tell or write stories ourselves, and the longer they are, the harder it is.

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