First, a tidbit: Caro writes in longhand and then on a typewriter:
It's because of something that was said to me at Princeton by a professor, a very courtly gentleman, Southern gentleman, who was my creative writing teacher. Every two weeks we'd hand in a short story. I was in his course for two years. For two years he gave me high marks, but I always did these short stories at the last minute. ... I would always start at the last minute and just type, because I could write very fast.Now the age part:
At our last session, he hands back my short story ... and he compliments me, and as I'm getting up to go he says, "But you know, Mr. Caro, you will never achieve what you want to achieve unless you stop thinking with your fingers." ...
But when I quit to do a book, and I began to realize how complex the story of Robert Moses was; I said I must make myself think things all the way through, and the slowest way of committing your thoughts to paper is by writing in hand. So I write three or four or more — sometimes I write a lot of drafts in hand. Then I go to my typewriter and that's how I write.
As with George R. R. Martin, at some point in every interview, the interviewer comes up with something like "Mr. Caro, you're 83 and still projecting your next book on Johnson. Don't you think you ought to get a move on?" The one from the NYT is this:
What does it mean to know that there is a group of people out there having the somewhat morbid concern that you might not finish your book before you die? It’s hard to avoid that. Every time someone does an article on me it’s there.
Caro's response is basically this: "You've got me there, but really, that's your problem." In other word, the process of writing takes what it takes. He's got 99 worries but mortality isn't one.
It's not so much that he's advocating slow writing for its own sake; instead, he wants to get it done the way he wants to get it done.
As I get back to writing after a month of various elder care crises and chaos, I find this comforting.