Saturday, May 07, 2011

Reconstructing life from tiny artifacts

Emma Brocke profiles Jennifer Egan for the Guardian. Egan says something that is basically exactly what I think about the daily practice of writing (I don't write like this all the time, just when I am actively at work on the initial draft of a new book project):
[S]he strives for five to seven pages a day, by hand. "And that can happen really quickly; I can be done with that in an hour or two. But I sometimes spend a lot of time avoiding doing it, taking four hours to do what I could've done in one. I try not to write more than that, even if I'm tempted to, because if I go too far I'm really drained for the next day. I can't do more than seven or maybe eight without jeopardising the rhythm."
Some interesting thoughts, too, on how reading Proust over the course of seven years led to ruminations on how to represent entire lifespans in fiction (one of the unusual features of A Visit from the Goon Squad).


  1. This must be the difference between being gifted and having a mere whisper of talent. I strive for a daily output of one page but usually manage only half, if that. And it can take me hours!

  2. My honest opinion is that it has little to do with gifted/not gifted - rather, I would put it along a couple different axes. First, there is an axis that runs from extremely uncritical draft-writing to perfectionist Flaubert-style sentence-crafting. Egan is at one end, Flaubert at the other, if you see what I'm saying! I am at the Egan end, because it seems to me psychologically devastating and potentially leading to writer's block to take the perfectionist Flaubert approach (though I believe that many of the writers I admire most write in this way, and it is agonizing for them!). The other axis just has to do with what I call "thermostat" - we all have different settings for where our productivity will fall, this cuts across activities, and it will also affect how much energy you can command and output you can produce.