Not working

17 May 2010

But the interesting thing is how easy it is not to work. Yes, writing is a necessity and often a pleasure, but at the same time, it can be a great burden and a terrible struggle. In my own case, I certainly don’t walk into my room and sit down at my desk feeling like a boxer ready to go ten rounds with Joe Louis. I tiptoe in. I procrastinate. I delay. I take care of little business that I don’t have to do at that moment. I come in sideways, kind of sliding through the door. I don’t burst into the saloon with my six-shooter ready. If I did, I’d probably shoot myself in the foot.

— Paul Auster, interviewed by Jonathan Lethem in The Believer (February ’05).

&

It may sound like I’ve got some sort of formula by which I write. Hell, no! You’re out there completely on your own — all you’ve got to do is write. OK, it’s nine in the morning. All I’ve got to do is write. But I go hours before I’m able to write a word. I make tea. I mean, I used to make tea all day long. And exercise, I do that every other day. I sharpened pencils in the old days when pencils were sharpened. I just ran pencils down. Ten, eleven, twelve, one, two, three, four — this is every day. This is damn near every day. It’s four-thirty and I’m beginning to panic. It’s like a coiling spring. I’m really unhappy. I mean, you’re going to lose the day if you keep this up long enough. Five: I start to write. Seven: I go home. That happens over and over and over again. So why don’t I work at a bank and then come in at five and start writing? Because I need those seven hours of gonging around. I’m just not that disciplined. I don’t write in the morning — I just try to write.

— John McPhee, interviewed in this spring’s Paris Review.