Here’s a great series from Slate: Daily Rituals: Lifehacking tips from novelists, painters, and filmmakers.
“By the time I was writing The Cider House Rules, I thought, well you seem to work best when you begin with the last sentence. And once I know, like with a piece of music, what it sounds like at the end, where I’m going, I make a kind of road map in reverse back to where I think the story should begin, and so far that last sentence has never changed. Never. I see that ending and I write toward it. It’s kind of waiting for me.”
A short, beautifully shot documentary looking into John Irving’s life at home from Time LightBox. We move from outside his home, to his kitchen, to his exercise room where we get a glimpse into his wrestling past, to his desk where he admits, he may die some day writing, mid-sentence.
Come listen to Irving speak at length about his writing life and most recent work on Tuesday, January 29 at the NYPL. More information and tickets available here…
Jerry Seinfeld on How to Write a Joke
“I began this whole writing enterprise with the idea that you go to work in the morning like a banker, then the work gets done. John Cheever used to tell how when he was a young man, living in New York with his wife, Mary, he’d put on his suit and hat every morning and get in the elevator with the other married men in his apartment building. These guys would all get out in the lobby but Cheever’d keep going down into the basement, where the super had let him set up a card table. It was so hot down there he had to strip to his underwear. So he’d sit in his boxers and write all morning, and at lunchtime he’d put his suit back on and take the elevator up with the other husbands—men used to come home for lunch in those days—and then he’d go back to the basement in his suit and strip down for the afternoon’s work. This was an important idea for me—that an artist was someone who worked, not some special being exempt from the claims of ordinary life.”
Hunched over my keyboard, I’m haunted by anecdotes of faster writers. Christopher Hitchens composing a Slate column in 20 minutes—after a chemo session, after a “full” dinner party, late on a Sunday night. The infamously productive Trollope, who used customized paper! “He had a note pad that had been indexed to indicate intervals of 250 words,” William F. Buckley told the Paris Review. “He would force himself to write 250 words per 15 minutes. Now, if at the end of 15 minutes he hadn’t reached one of those little marks on his page, he would write faster.” Buckley himself was a legend of speed—writing a complete book review in crosstown cabs and the like.
Photo by laffy4k
From M. Molly Backes, advice on how to help your child become a writer:
First of all, let her be bored. Let her have long afternoons with absolutely nothing to do. Limit her TV-watching time and her internet-playing time and take away her cell phone. Give her a whole summer of lazy mornings and dreamy afternoons. Make sure she has a library card and a comfy corner where she can curl up with a book. Give her a notebook and five bucks so she can pick out a great pen. Insist she spend time with the family. It’s even better if this time is spent in another state, a cabin in the woods, a cottage on the lake, far from her friends and people her own age. Give her some tedious chores to do. Make her mow the lawn, do the dishes by hand, paint the garage. Make her go on long walks with you and tell her you just want to listen to the sounds of the neighborhood.