Can you discuss your work process? When do you sit down to write, and what do you do to warm up?
Oh, it’s very tormented. I try to write in the morning, and I write in longhand, and I write in very beautiful notebooks [White displays a couple of hardbound notebooks filled with thick, hand-laid paper] and with very beautiful pens. I just write away, and then . . . This is a first go at it, and then I start crossing out, and it gets crazier and crazier, with inserts and so on. Finally, two or three years of this go by and then one day I call in a typist. I dictate the entire book to her or him. The typist is a sort of editor in that he or she will tell me what is really terrible and what’s good, or what’s inconsistent and doesn’t make sense. I get together a whole version this way and then I stew over it some more. Eventually my editor reads it, and then he tells me to change things, and it goes on like that. If I write a page a day, I’m lucky. But I write less. And months go by without my writing at all, and I get very crazy when I write! Sick, physically.
Edmund White, The Art of Fiction No. 105, as Interviewed by Jordan Elgrably in The Paris Review No. 108, Fall 1988.
There is no genius as Corbusier implied. There is only steady, consistent, applied effort through diligence, insight, application and passion towards the expression of ideas in the most thoughtful and original attempt to capture them.
– Marcus D. Niski, as taken from my writer’s notebook, 4 May 2020, [MN]
As writers, we often find ourselves collecting notebooks in an attempt to fill them. Just as often, the ratio of empty notebooks to full starts to lean heavy on the “empty” side, but our compulsion to surround ourselves with empty pages is real. Curious that, for many of us, the empty page is a source […]
Writing down your thoughts is both necessary and harmful. It leads to eccentricity, narcissism, preserves what should be let go. On the other hand, these notes intensify the inner life, which, left unexpressed, slips through your fingers. If only I could find a better kind of journal, humbler, one that would preserve the same thoughts, the same flesh of life, which is worth saving.
— Anna Kamieńska, from “In That Great River: A Notebook,” Poetry. Originally Published: June 1, 2010
Les petits carnets Je regarde mon portable. 6:07. Mes yeux me piquent un peu. Le Tgv pour Paris est presque vide. J’ai deux heures pour écrire. Autour de moi quelques hommes, attaché-case posé sur le siège d’à côté, se mettent à travailler. D’autres dorment, la veste en guise de couverture et moi, comme à mon habitude je commence mon voyage en farfouillant mon sac.
I take a lot of crap about my note-taking. Constant scribbling is so central to my persona, in fact, that one colleague recently expressed concern during a meeting when I wasn’t taking notes. “I forgot my pen,” I shrugged. Here’s the thing: I have a terrible memory — so if I don’t write it down […]