Sunday, January 15, 2006

Wish he could have been my writing coach . . .

Here's Nathanael West, author of Miss Lonelyhearts, The Day of the Locust, A Cool Million, and The Dream Life of Balso Snell, writing about writing: Forget the epic, the master work. In America fortunes do not accumulate, the soil does not grow, families have no history. Leave slow growth to the book reviewers, you only have time to explode. Remember William Carlos Williams' description of the pioneer women who shot their children against the wilderness like cannonballs. Do the same with your novels.
-From Some Notes on Miss L., in the Library of America collection.
Some writers* provide the know-how you need to get the job done; others, like West in this passage, or like John Gardner in The Art of Fiction, light a fire under your ass and demand that you get the job done. Both are useful. Right now, two days into my three-day weekend and not a single page edited, I'd take the pyromaniac over the technician. That's why I'm reading and rereading West's war cry. West and his wife Eileen died in a car accident in 1940. West was 37. D. *Writers who write about writing. Eh, you know what I mean.


Anonymous PBW said...

I love this. I love this man. If he were still alive, I'd be his groupie.

Editing your own stuff is like going after the contents of a fine jewelry store, which have been deposited inside a Chinese restaurant's half-filled Dumpster. No matter how much you think it's going to stink, you just gotta jump in, breathe through your mouth, and grab the good stuff.

If that doesn't work, I've got matches here, and I'm not afraid to use them. :)

1/15/2006 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger Kate R said...

but I'm stuck at one phrase. They shot their children? or were the children the cannon balls? and WHY did they shoot the children?

I thought I knew WCW, too.

1/16/2006 04:36:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Sheila, it's 9:25 AM here and I'm steeling myself to open up Word Perfect. A cattle prod might help.

Kate, the children are the cannon balls. Westward ho!

1/16/2006 09:29:00 AM  
Anonymous PBW said...

Okay, are you editing, or reading comments?

(sound of match being lit, and propane torch valve being opened)

1/16/2006 05:32:00 PM  

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