Giving attention to what others write – and what they say about writing – is very enjoyable…but it does keep one from doing what a writer is supposed to do…write….
I’ve been off the radar for a couple of weeks now. Part of this is due to an increase in some of my duties in my job (for those who somehow don’t know, I am a professor of writing as well as a writer – though my professing seems to be becoming more and more eaten up by administrative tasks – not something that makes me happy – these days), part of it is due to some conflicts I’ve been feeling about spending so much of whatever writing time I do have writing about other people’s writing.
Don’t get me wrong. As anyone who reads my pieces knows, I love reading as much as writing. (Sometimes I am tempted to think that I love it more than writing, but that is only the lazy side of me trying to convince me that the hard, painful, rewarding work that is writing can be avoided, when every writer who is a writer knows that only two things cannot be avoided: writing and death.)
And that leads me to what I want to write about here.
Over the last three years I have read and written about somewhere between 125 and 150 books. Obviously, that’s required a lot of time dedicated to reading, somewhat less, but still a lot of time dedicated to writing about that reading. I have enjoyed doing this tremendously, but with increased work responsibilities, expect to see fewer essays on books. I’ll continue reading and writing about that reading (if anyone cares); I’ll simply being doing it at a slower pace – and lower rate – than I have. Bear with me – if things change, you’ll know by the output.
There’s that other issue – my own writing. I have a manuscript of stories 80% complete. I am determined to finish that book by the end of 2015. I also have two other works, both novels, that I want to get underway. So I must let that writing – literary fiction that demands a great deal of me in terms of commitment and concentration – take precedence for the foreseeable future.
Anyone who knows me and my work will get the irony of the photo I’ve used to illustrate this piece. Thomas Wolfe, a North Carolinian like me, is noted as one of the most prodigious writers in literary history. The crate his foot rests upon is the manuscript of his novel O Lost: A Novel of the Buried Life. Editor extraordinaire at Scribner’s, Maxwell Perkins, as students of American literature know, reshaped Wolfe’s massive manuscript into one of American literature’s greatest novels: Look Homeward, Angel. No editor will ever have to pare down my minimalist works, of course.
But even a writer of few words has to set aside the time to write them.