Saturday, September 25, 2010

Philip Roth on writing

From this month's Esquire, Philip Roth on writing (p. 186):

Has the writing gotten any easier?

That's hard to answer. There are days and weeks that are very difficult. I've never been without the struggle. When I started writing, I did have false starts. I would write seventy-five, a hundred pages of something and toss it aside. I don't do that. I don't make false starts any longer. So that's an improvement.

Who knows what'll happen in the next ten years. Maybe it'll get better. Maybe it'll get worse. I don't know. At this stage of the game, you don't know what's going to happen. You see different writers as they get old, what happens to them. Some shut down. Some write sporadically--the way Bellow did it.

I have a slogan I use when I get anxious writing, which happens quite a bit: "The ordeal is part of the commitment." It's one of my mantras. It makes a lot of things doable.

Mine is from a fat relief pitcher, Bob Wickman: You gotta trust your stuff.

That's very good. I used to have little things over my desk at various times. One of them was "Don't judge it." Just write it. Don't judge it. It's not for you to judge it.

I have four or five friends who I ask to read my final drafts and to say whatever they want to say to me about it. I put it through that sieve, and they tell me what they think about it, and then I consider it and make changes if it seems appropriate. Often it does.

[See also Historiann's post on scholars writing about writing.]


Historiann said...

How hard can it be for Philip Roth to write? He writes the same damned books, over and over again, featuring the same characters.

I'm sure Google could write an algorhythym for a Roth novel.

undine said...

Hah! That algorhythm would be worth seeing. You wouldn't get that impression from reading the article, which was entirely worshipful.

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Ink said...

Nice. Is it wrong that it makes me feel better whenever famous writers talk about how hard it is to write?

I always loved that quote about writing being easy: just sit down at a typewriter and open a vein (or something like that).

undine said...

Ink, I like to hear those difficulties, too, as though we're all in it together.