Friday, May 02, 2014

Writing inspiration: John Updike

Walking really does help you to be more creative, even if the source of the information is HuffPo.

For inspiration and productivity, you could do worse than to emulate John Updike. I know that David Foster Wallace faulted his steady productivity and self-absorption, but like his friend Joyce Carol Oates, Updike just kept on. Snippets from various parts of Adam Begley's Updike:
From breakfast until late lunch, he wrote.  In that summer of 1957, when he was working on The Poorhouse Fair, he made up his mind to produce a minimum of three pages every morning (and many mornings, he did better). 
His schedule remained essentially the same for the next fifty years.  He never seems to have had any difficulty in getting himself to start work, or to sit still and concentrate for the number of hours necessary to meet his three-page quota.  It sounds like a contradiction in terms.
Having guests in the house did not mean that Updike altered his work schedule; he shut himself away as usual for his daily three hours. 
Updike's work is controversial for a lot of reasons, portrayals of women being among them*, but for sheer literary industry, doesn't this inspire you?

[More in an Updike interview at The Paris Review]

*My take, in part: the Rabbit tetralogy works, although Rabbit, Redux, which seemed good back when I read it, seems in retrospect a Very Special Episode on the turmoil of the sixties. Maybe it wouldn't seem that way if I read it again. The Maples stories and most of his other stories, Couples, The Centaur, The Poorhouse Fair, and his essays were all well worth reading. Marry Me was a more intensely focused version of Couples.

The Witches of Eastwick--no. Just no. I stopped reading Roger's Version when the child abuse parts came up and didn't read S. or any of the Bech books or the later fantasies--come to think of it, I stopped midway through Roger's Version and never went back to Updike.

[Edited because I confused S.  and Roger's Version in the original post, and I had forgotten that I had read Marry Me.]


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I read the DFW review because I love DFW and hate Updike. I was thoroughly amused with recognition by Wallace's review. I just love Wallace. Updike's protagonists make me hate, absolutely loath, men, even as I occasionally empathize with the characters. I really just cannot stand Updike.

But yes, when I write, I emulate the daily discipline of writing. Most successful and prolific writers have the same or similar routine. I'll take my direction from them so that I don't have to associated with a writer whose favorite pastime is recreating the same asshole over and over.

undine said...

Fie, I know you and DFW are in good company about hating Updike. (Well, DFW says he doesn't hate him, but the review says something different.) Updike for me was always the most palatable of the mid-century guys, but when he threw in that tale of child abuse just so he could crawl over it and get to the adultery plot *again,* I gave up.

But I wish I had his discipline, which, as you say, is like that of everyone who's successful.