Our household has gone a bit China mad lately. For the two youngest children, China is their school topic this term. They have been drawing dragons, writing about the artist Ai Weiwei, making kites, and such like.
I’ve been involved, too. Alongside its China topic, their primary school is trying to get its children more interested in reading stories set in other cultures, as a way of understanding how life is different elsewhere on our planet. To combine this with their China work, they commissioned me to write a “traditional” Chinese folk tale, which they would then use to spark ideas in school.
I accepted the challenge and became utterly engrossed, quite possibly obsessed – but in a good way. After scratching around for a while, I took a story-form rooted in Yugur culture and put my own spin on it. My tale is about Sheep – one day she leaves her flock to live a new life on Heavenly Mountain, where the grass is sweet and green. Along the way she meets Wolf, with whom she strikes a bargain.
The school liked the story and asked me if I’d come in and read it to an assembly of all the children. I agreed, unsure what they would make of it. I thought the older children might enjoy it, but I worried that the smallest ones – some of whom are barely five – wouldn’t get it at all.
I needn’t have worried. It went down well, especially the parts where I leapt around wielding a bamboo cane in the air – something you’re not really allowed to do in school these days.
After the reading, I took a workshop with some of the older boys, trying to get them to write their own creative responses to the story. This was hard going at first, but once they realised that they were allowed to make stuff up and have fun with words, they really got into the idea. There was a beautiful moment, about half and hour in, when they all had their heads down and were scribbling away and I really felt like I’d achieved something.
I’m not sure that I taught them to become better writers – I was only with them for a few hours. But I think I helped them to realise that they could generate ideas, and that their ideas were as good as anyone’s. I hope they can keep that thought with them.
In the afternoon, I went to read my story to the school’s youngest children. Concerned that the full story – and its themes of naivety, selfishness and redemption – might be too much for them to grasp, I had written a shorter version of about half the length, with the language simplified and the narrative complexities removed.
Sitting down to read this to them, I asked a few questions about what they’d made of the morning’s reading. I was amazed at how perceptive they were. Most of them had a good recall of the main plot points and characters; several of them could quote back sections of dialogue – well, almost.
I quickly realised that the “dumbed down” version of the story wasn’t needed. I should have had greater respect for this young audience. There’s a lesson for me there.
Amid all this creative activity, I’ve been writing about China for a client – or trying to. I’m supposed to be writing about how the global economic downturn is making it harder for Chinese companies to raise finance. It’s interesting, but I’m struggling to find my way into it – after the Christmas and New Year break, I’ve lost some of my rhythm. I want the words to flow effortlessly, but they won’t.
Really, I ought to remember what I told the boys in school: if you find it hard to write, just start; if you find you want to stop, keep going.
I had no idea what to write about when I opened the Scrivener file that became this blog post, just one word: China. Now I have 670 words. That’s how writing works sometimes – and it’s as true for me in my study as it is for those boys in their classroom.
I was reading today about the Siri app on iPhone 4s. Basically, you can ask your phone a question, or give it a task to do, and it will understand what you mean and respond. It recognises natural language instructions, and apparently does a rather good job of it.
Googling around for information about how it works, I found an official Apple list of some of the stock phrases that Siri can understand.
I feel there is a strange poetry in these questions and commands. They seem to say something about the always-connected lives we lead. So, with no editing from me, apart from deleting an “s” and shortening the titles, here are a few “poems” from Apple….
I’ve earned a living as a business writer for over twenty years and written fiction for almost eight. But throughout that time, a dividing wall has kept my “corporate” writing separate from my “creative” work. The former pays the bills, the latter nourishes the soul, and never the twain shall meet. That used to be my attitude.
Two years ago an event in my life put a crack in that wall. A depressed friend killed himself. His action was a reminder that life is precious and must not be wasted. It made me reflect on my own trajectory. Was I being true to myself, leading an authentic life, making choices that I was proud of? Or was I denying an important part of who I wanted to be – not just a writer for money but a creative artist, a phrase I still type with trepidation?
I decided that the wall that kept my writing personas separate needed to go. It was built, I think, out of fear. But fear of what? Embarrassment? Failure? Was I worried that business clients who heard I wrote short stories might think I was some kind of oddball? Probably. And did I suspect fiction editors would take me less seriously if they thought I sold words by the yard? Yes. It’s not rational, but fears often aren’t.
Whatever my concerns were, I needn’t have worried. When I’ve let slip to business clients over the last year or so that I write fiction, they’ve always been impressed – if not with the results then at least with the ambition. And whenever I’ve discussed the difficulty of earning a writing income with my fiction friends, they’ve congratulated me on my commercial acumen. “Coming out” in this way has been good for me.
But it has remained a tentative process. Even as I’ve chipped away at that public wall, in my mind these two areas of writing activity – corporate and creative – have remained separate. They required different skills, had different objectives – they were ineffably apart.
Now, I’m exaggerating a little for effect here. One reason why I’ve been successful as a business writer is that I do sometimes use the tricks of the fiction trade to help with the “day job”. I know that a sprinkling of personal anecdote here, a dash of metaphor there, can liven up the dullest corporate assignment. I know, too, that finding ways to “muck about” with words can make the work more enjoyable, and that when I’m enjoying myself I write better and faster. Most importantly, I know that when I dip into the fiction toolbox I produce writing that makes a better connection with readers – and that, of course, is what it’s all about.
The dividing wall has been a real one nonetheless, and the chinks I knocked out of it were only small. So at the start of the summer I decided to demolish it for good. My chosen wrecking ball was a course called Dark Angels, run by two writers whom I admire greatly: John Simmons and Jamie Jauncey.
I first heard about Dark Angels in, I think, 2004. John has written a book of the same name, which was published in that year. His book talks about the need to bring creativity into business writing. Not because it makes the chore of grinding out business copy more bearable for the writer, or because it makes their words more effective – although it achieves both.
No. The real benefit is that writers who try to be more creative often have to rebel against corporate jargon, marketing mumbo-jumbo and organisational double-speak. They have to change the way people think about the world of work. They have to insist on the value, the necessity, of writing that treats its readers as thinking, feeling human beings – not constituents of a stakeholder group or marketing category. They have to become rebels. I like rebels. I liked the idea of becoming one.
Chapter five, Recreation and Retreat, tells the story of how John and his colleague, Stuart Delves, held a week-long workshop at Totleigh Barton, in Devon, where they helped fifteen other writers to work in the spirit celebrated in the book. The workshop was also called Dark Angels; it sounded, to me, like a week in heaven. Seven years after reading about it, I finally decided to go.
The view from my window in Scotland
So what did I learn from my week in Scotland, at Moniack Mohr? I can get extraordinary amounts of work done if I turn off my Blackberry and shut down the WiFi. I can chant in Latin and find it enjoyable. I can drink vast quantities of whisky without getting a hangover, but only if it’s Aberlour a’Bunadh and has a dash of water. People are like books, you can’t judge them by their covers. Polyphonic harmony sounds lovely. Some people can’t bear listening to praise. You can learn a lot from crumbling a stone between your fingers. Bird-spotting guidebooks are strangely reductive. Beatles songs can be more musically complex than they seem. I am a better writer than I realised. Everyone is a better writer than they realise.
Did I get what I wanted from the course? Other participants said the experience had transformed them: “I’m not the person I was on Monday,” one reported. That didn’t happen to me; I was a little envious. I left for the airport feeling that I too had learned a deep lesson, but I wasn’t sure what is was yet.
The day after I got home, we drove down to Devon for a holiday, renting a house in the South Hams with another family, old friends. One morning we visited the famous craft centre at Dartington Hall. Outside, in a small wooden shed, a man in faded jeans and a grey t-shirt was giving a glass-blowing demonstration. I stopped to watch. He put the finishing touches to a small shot glass and then started to make another, talking to his small audience as he worked.
His name was Ian Hankey. He has worked with glass for twenty years, he explained. I noticed the parallel immediately: I have worked with words for the same length of time. “How long did it take to learn?” asked one of the spectators. “I’m still learning,” he said with a smile.
I meant to stop for a few minutes only, but I watched Ian work for an hour and a half. Listening to him talk about his craft was like looking into a mirror. He made a wine glass next, moulding, stretching and reheating the glass, always changing it, adjusting it. Like a writer working on a first draft, everything was provisional. He was controlling the glass, but allowing it to find its own flow, the shape it needed to be. He was never quite sure how the piece he was making would turn out, but that didn’t seem to worry him.
Ian Hankey at work
At one point the wine glass cracked. There was a palpable sense of tension. Ian was worried that an hour’s work was lost. But he found a way of rescuing it.
I peppered Ian with questions, as I am wont to do. Do you ever burn yourself, I asked? He laughed and pointed to several burns on his hands and on his arms. But these are all from cooking at home, he said. The kitchen is a dangerous place, anything could happen. But in the workshop, he is in command. There are no accidents.
Indeed, as Ian chatted to us and worked the glass, it became clear he had other senses at work. He just knew, at one point, that the furnace had become too hot. He could tell when the glass was about to break. Skill like this can only come from working with raw materials, from hours of practice and experimentation and failure; from trying to make something, understanding why it is going wrong, and working out how to fix it. This is what I do all day, but with words.
These are tacit skills, he believes, and they are hard to learn because they are hard to articulate. You can’t record them in any book of instructions. He teaches glass work to college students, but tacit skills can’t be taught in a classroom, he said. They can only be assimilated by working alongside an unforgiving taskmaster, an opportunity few young glassmakers have now that production has moved overseas. But that’s exactly how I started to write, I thought, hammering away at a knackered typewriter with a ball-breaking editor breathing down my neck – and that old editor’s industry, newspapers, is dying too.
As Ian worked there were sometimes bubbles, tool marks or other “flaws” in the glass. These can be removed, he said, but nowadays he leaves them be. They are evidence, he explained, that the piece has been made by hand – only an industrial factory produces perfect work. These human traces are not only testament to the provenance of a piece, they add to its quality: you never get bored of looking at something “flawed”, he said: it has individuality, it is unique.
And here I had another “ah ha!” moment. This, of course, is what I had been learning to do in Scotland: writing in a way that allowed for individuality, understanding how the “flaws” that the overseers of a writing factory might want to eliminate – those metaphors, memories and other traces of humanity – were actually what made a piece work, what gave it enduring appeal and fascination, what enabled it to connect with readers.
Listening to one man talk about his craft told me so much about my own. So I asked him the question that I had taken with me to Scotland: if you enjoy working with glass so much, and are so skilled and experienced, how can you be content making simple wineglasses? (I expressed it in more polite terms: which do you prefer making: functional objects or art pieces?)
Ian’s answer was a wise one. Expressing your creativity through glass is a wonderful thing to do, he said, but function also has its beauty. Producing a well-made, attractive, functional wineglass, and then making five the same so the customer can buy a set, is a very challenging and satisfying activity, he said. And I knew this to be true, because I’d just watch him do it.
The students Ian teaches at college can all make glass sculpture, he explained, but ask them to blow a simple Christmas bauble and they struggle. They don’t have the craft skills, the technique, to make anything that someone would actually pay to use, they can’t sustain themselves as working craftsmen. So if they want to have a life working with glass, they need to connect with both art and craft – the two are not separate. Likewise with me and my words. That is the lesson I learned with the Dark Angels.
An interesting new writerly experience for me last week. I was lucky enough to have one of my stories selected for a public reading by the lovely people at White Rabbit a while ago, and on Wednesday I went along to a pub in Ashford to see it performed.
I’ve read my own stories to an audience before, but I’ve never seen one of them read by someone else. Gareth Brierley did a brilliant job. It can’t have been easy for him; unlike most of the other stories featured in the evening, mine contained no humour at all and didn’t really tell a story.
It was more of an atmosphere piece, really. That’s not the kind of thing I usually write. In fact, if someone tells me a story of theirs is “more of an atmosphere piece, really”, I tend to interpret that as an admission of failure. But I won’t anymore!
Like I say, Gareth did a great job. And I had a good chat with him afterwards to get some tips on public reading. Video of the performance exists somewhere, I’m told, but I don’t have any yet.
Interestingly (for me, anyway) I wrote the first draft of the piece – “One of us is a ghost” – in the room where it was eventually performed, and then developed and edited it in the knowledge that, if it were accepted for performance, I wouldn’t be reading it out myself. That seemed to change my writing style in interesting (for me, at least) ways that merit some reflection. But not now.
(This post started life as a comment added to someone else’s blog. Thought I might add it here, too)
I bought myself an iPad last week – or rather, it finally arrived last week – so that I had another way of writing when out and about.
I’ve since been reflecting on the “cool” new ways of working that this impressive piece of technology is urging me to adopt: electronic diaries for every area of my life, synched across all my devices; details of every project at my fingertips, wherever I happen to be; ways of generating ideas, planning stories and creating, all achieved without paper and pen.
The iPad certainly gives me more efficient ways of achieving work tasks, but I don’t think those digitised ways of working are necessarily any more effective – not for me, at least. And its ability to automate certain activities does seem to strip out a lot of simple, everyday creative thought and reflection.
If I write a to do list on paper, I have to think about it: how should I use my time, what are my real priorities, how do I balance my goals with the expectations of others? The act of writing the list is a moment for reflection. But if the computer generates the list for me, I just perform the tasks it offers.
The iPad has been a surprisingly good writing tool, but yesterday I went out and bought a new paper diary, some sticky labels, glue and coloured pens. Sometimes analogue is better.
I just updated my membership of 26, the brilliant community of creative business writers. As part of the process, I had to nominate my favourite word. I don’t really have one of those. Or if I do, it would probably take days of ruminations to decide what it might be. So, in a hurry, I opted for Cummerbund.
This was a surprising choice. I very rarely attend black tie events, and when I do, I always decline the opportunity of renting a cummerbund. I actively dislike them. And yet, I like the word. It has a pleasant sound; strong vowels; resonant consonants. Say it slowly, and there’s even a bit of an eastern mystical mantra going on – the Ummmm followed by the Unnnn. Pleasingly – and another surprise – this connects with the roots of the word.
Cummerbund, I discover, is from the Hindi word kamarband. “Kamar” means waist or loin; band is from “bandhah” – a fetter or something that ties.
This interests me. I’d have thought that a cummerbund, back in the 1600s, when the word was first recorded, had little practical purpose – it was just a clothing accessory. But that would be wrong. It’s original use, based on the etymology, was to strap a flabby stomach in place – which is mostly its purpose today, of course.
Walking along the south bank of the Thames today, I came across a wonderful poetry installation. Called the Lion and the Unicorn, it’s part of the Festival of Britain anniversary celebrations. Hope the images from my Blackberry are legible.
This is my first stab at “digital fiction”. Scroll down to read about how I made it, and why…
So…What an inspiring and mind-numbingly frustrating few days.Over the weekend I went to another excellent workshop organised by the lovely people at East Kent Live Lit. This one was all about digital storytelling. At the helm was Andy Campbell, a master of the art.Hearing Andy talk about his work was truly inspiring. He produces great stuff and is an incredibly patient teacher.Andy showed us a few simple ideas for telling interactive stories, which involved a little bit of raw html coding. Surprisingly easy, so I thought I’d give it a go.For my own efforts, I decided to jump straight into the – very, very – deep end, downloading a trial version of Flash Professional CS5.Andy uses this software to create beautiful, engaging dreamscapes – I used it to make a word follow a block around a screen. It took two hours, but I did get it to happen. Behold the masterpiece that I call Block/Words (note, I can’t make it loop – duh!):
Next, I tried to get a bit clever, adding some images and textures to my creation. Lord, it was a nightmare. I gave up in frustration.Then, refuelled with caffeine, I fired up the MacBook and made my own Flash message for the people at Adobe:
After a fitful night worrying about Timelines, Stages and Layers, I decided to try again in the morning.I gave up on Flash and tried to combine the inspiration from Andy’s workshop with the low-fi, DIY, punk attitude that I took away from my previous Live Lit session. (Thanks to the excellent Matt Rowe, who gave my brain a cold rinse in February)I set myself a simple challenge: make something creative; spend only one hour doing it; use only the tools at your disposal; put it online, however crappy the end product.I took the text of a story that is about to be published in Cent magazine and mixed it up with some photos I shot at last year’s Latitude festival. The aim was to produce a simple slideshow. How hard could that be?I used Keynote – the Mac alternative to PowerPoint – to make the slides and edited the images in iPhoto: just basic cropping and colour-fudging. I exported the whole thing as a QuickTime movie and – bingo! – I had my first piece of interactive fiction.That all took an hour.Then the hard work started: how to share it online?I tried to upload the movie to Blogger, TypePad, Tumblr and elsewhere, but each platform’s video conversion gizmo stripped out the “clickability”: the slideshow ran straight through each time, like a crappy five-second movie. No good.What next? I exported each slide as a jpeg from Keynote and imported them into Soundslides, a neat app for creating online slideshows. This worked really well, except that the only export was to a bunch of html files and folders; I had nowhere to upload them.Next step, I thought I could put the jpegs on Flickr or Picasa and create an embedded slideshow. I could, and did, but couldn’t retain the “clickability” – each slide changed after a three-second interval; too quick to read my text.Finally, I tried Slideshare, a site for sharing presentations and other stuff. (I kind of like the idea of sneaking a bit of fiction onto a site meant for corporate stuff)First up, I tried to upload a Keynote version of the story. Slideshare struggled to convert this, so I produced a PowerPoint version instead, which it dealt with in seconds.The result looks a bit rubbish. You have to click the little maximise arrows in the bottom-right corner if you want to see it properly. But here it is:
After many hours of algorithmic crunching, Slideshare finally spat out the Keynote version, which is below (and looks much better):
1/ The best version of my story remains the QuickTime movie, and that just took an hour to make. But I can’t work out how to get it online, and even when I emailed it to someone the sound failed.
2/ The technology was a nightmare, but the creative side of mixing words and pictures was fun and rewarding. I will try again.
3/ The workshop was great. If you live in my part of the world, and get a chance to attend anything that the Live Lit people do, I’d recommend it.
Must go and earn some money now….
(oh, for the sake of completeness, here is the embedded Flickr version:)
It is always hard to get back into writing after a break, especially one as pleasant as a holiday in Thailand. But over the last few days I have gradually found my way back to the page. And just now I read this insightful comment from writer Clare Dudman, which captures the feeling well:
“I really should be writing. I keep thinking that. I should stop doing so much reading of other people’s books and do some writing of my own. The longer I leave it, the worse it gets. It’s like standing, shivering, on the shore of a bleak ocean. You know you’ll enjoy it when you get under the waves, but first you have to wade out?”
I like that. And on her recommendation, I have just ordered this:
I did my reading at the wonderful Komedia Theatre in Brighton this week, for Story Studio. What an amazing experience!
The venue was much bigger than I expected, and had sold out – they were actually turning people away at the door. I know they weren’t lining up to see me, but even so.
I was third on stage out of nine “acts”, the last before the first interval. This was a good slot, the friendly organisers said, because it meant I could relax and enjoy the rest of the evening.
Strangely, I felt no nerves at all when my time came. Up on stage, I couldn’t see a thing – the spotlights were so bright. But there was a big audience out there somewhere. And they were waiting for me to entertain them.
I only realised afterwards – or maybe not until the evening itself – what a risk the organisers were taking when they decided to give me a slot. They must have liked my story, but they’d never heard me read to an audience. I could have been a disaster.
Luckily, I wasn’t. It went better than I could possibly have hoped. People were really kind afterwards – audience members and other performers. One, who’s act I really enjoyed, said “you’ve got ‘It’”; the organisers said I was “amazing”.
Anyway, I’m hooked on live performance now and will be looking for any chance to get on stage again. So watch this space.
I went to an amazing workshop in Folkestone yesterday. The idea was to explore new ways of presenting literature to an audience. It was massively inspiring, and I put some of what I learned into practice today.
I put together the little “film” here in about 45 minutes. The audio was recorded into a dictaphone, in the bathroom, with a towel over my head. My voice sounds pretty rough and shaky, but that’s because I’d only been awake for a few minutes.
Normally I’d try to get this perfect before posting, or just throw it away. But in the “just do it” ethic of yesterday, I’m putting it here as it is.
I learnt a lot from doing this, and from yesterday. I’ll post more about that later.
I’ve read a lot of personal essays, and read a lot about them, but I’m not sure I’ve ever written one.
I say ‘not sure’ because I’ve maybe written quite a few in notebooks, or written words that could be turned into an essay, but have never tried to actually produce one that might be published.
I’d like to try that, and have been thinking about giving it a go this year. One obstacle is voice: Who is writing the essay? Is it me, or some kind of essay-writing version of me? And is it a voice that speaks the truth, or a version of it?
Today I came across an interesting interview with Carl H. Klaus, an essay writer, theorist on the craft of the personal essay, and author of “The Made Up Self” (via here). He says something interesting on this question of voice:
“I do think there’s some double-edged quality in writing personal essays – because despite the fluid nature of the self, we do in the long run develop a conception of our selves that we aspire to be true to in our own writing. And yet I know that such a thing is impossible. To think that I could in fact create a style that was an echo of such a multi-sided thing as the self – that’s simply a cuckoo notion. So what can I say? We do, in fact, aspire to write like ourselves even though we know that in some sense this is an impossibility – much as it’s a difficult notion to imagine never being yourself and yet always being yourself. It’s a paradoxical thing.”
The full interview is worth reading, especially for what he says about Montaigne, which I think I disagree with.
Because I spend so much time on my own, at my desk, writing, with nobody else in the house apart from the dog, people often ask me whether I get lonely. I don’t, usually.
This isn’t because I’m an antisocial misanthrope. I enjoy company, mostly. The reason I don’t get lonely is that I am writing. This might sound contradictory, but I came across a Julia Cameron quote yesterday that explained it well:
“The minute I let myself write, everything else falls into balance. If I get a dose of writing in my day, then I can actually socialise with a clear conscience. I can actually be present for the life I am having rather than living in the never-never land of the nonwriting writer, that twilight place where you always ‘should’ be somewhere else – writing – so that you can never enjoy where you actually are.”
Reading that reminded me of something James Thurber said in an interview:
“I never quite know when I’m not writing. Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says, ‘Damnit, Thurber, stop writing.’ She usually catches me in the middle of a paragraph. Or my daughter will look up from the dinner table and ask, ‘Is he sick?’ ‘No,’ my wife says, ‘he’s writing something.’”
I bought someone a Kindle for Christmas, or contributed my share of the cost. A useful gadget, but I prefer to have all my books where I can see them, on the shelf.
I was looking at one of those shelves late last night, from the comfort of my chair, and pulled down a copy of Photocopies, by John Berger. This is a stunning book, which I bought some 15 years ago and have read many times. It blurs the lines between fiction and non-fiction, and, importantly, always inspires me to write.
Berger is English, but left this country to live in France four decades ago. Why? He gives a fascinating answer in the interview below. He never felt at home in England, he says. Whenever he talked to people or listened to them, he felt he embarrassed them. “I was indecently intense,” he says.
Yesterday was my first day back at work. Over the holidays, as usual, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to balance my working day, how to mix my different responsibilities. The aim, as always, is to find more time to write. Because if I had more time to write….ah, well.
How much money does it take to be happy? Ask anyone that question and they’ll usually answer with a figure that is just a little bit more than they earn now. The amount of money they need is always just out of reach.
The same applies to me and writing time. If I just had a little more… And then I read these wise words from Julia Cameron:
“The myth that we must have ‘time’ – more time – in order to create is a myth that keeps us from using the time we do have. If we are forever yearning for ‘more’, we are forever discounting what is offered.”
I felt a shiver when I read that. She continues:
“The ‘if-I-had-time’ lie is a convenient way to ignore the fact that novels require being written and that writing happens a sentence at a time. Sentences can happen in a moment.”
Blocked up like a bank holiday motorway? Devoid of any writing ideas? Here’s my Five Step Short Story Idea Generating Process (TM pending).
Take a blank sheet of paper and make a random list of characters and their objectives. For example: A man who desperately needs £100,000 within a week; a woman who must get her head unstuck from some railings; a man who wants to be young again; a girl who wants to buy a second-hand caravan.
Make a random list of scenarios: The world will certainly end next Thursday; walking is made illegal; all the bees die; dogs rule the world.
Make a list of interesting words: Treachery, lust, envy, arrogance, porridge, goats, pasta, secrets.
Quickly jot down sentences and ideas that take something from at least two of the lists. Such as:
A man needs £100,000 to deceive a goat
A woman trying to annoy a goat gets her head stuck in some railings
Arrogance kills all of the bees
Dogs rule through treachery
Porridge is the secret of youth
Over-consumption of pasta will lead the word to oblivion next Tuesday
“The fact of the matter is that the people who struggle most with writing are drunks. They get hammered at night and in the morning their heads are full of pain and adverbs. Writing is hard for them, but so would golf be, or planting alfalfa, or assembling parts in a factory.”
2) While over at Columbia Journalism Review Robert Boynton interviews the painfully unproductive Gay Talese and reports how:
“Displaying equal parts pride and self-loathing, Talese reports he wrote barely fifty-four-and-a-half typed pages between 1995 and 1999.”
3) Meanwhile, in the Guardian, Orhan Pamuk reflects on the joys of putting words on paper:
“If you leave aside sensual pleasures, sexual pleasures, good food, good sleep, and so on, then the happiest thing is that I have written two and a half, three good pages. I am almost assured that they are, but I need confirmation. My girlfriend comes, we are happy, I read to her, she says, ‘This is wonderful’ – that’s it! That’s the greatest happiness.”