|Colette: looking for fleas (by Jacques Humbert)|
But do these things really matter to writers, and to those wanting to know how to write, or are they a distraction? Surely what you need is rather more dull: to understand language, make up a story, and have the time and discipline to put that story into language. Do you really need a bizarre daily working habit, a superstition, a lucky charm, a (as people like to call it these days) ‘process’?
I need coffee; I need absinthe. I require music. I insist on silence. Special paper; my favourite pen. Only early mornings. It has to be late nights. It’s interesting that these superstitious rituals of inspiration are also generally means of repression, a way of fencing about the creative moment, defining its limits, at once trammelling and setting free. We dull our nerves with drugs so our neurons may fire, deafen our ears with music so as to hear our inner voice, confine our bodies to bed so our minds may travel far.
|George Sand, sans cigar (by Eugene Delacroix)|
Of all the writers’ rituals above, the one I find most convincing and moving is Cheever’s, who had to fit himself into the boring straitjacket of ‘normalcy’ (the suit, the crowded lift) that probably most of the office clones he was imitating were dying to escape, in order to achieve what they only dreamed of: being a free, Bohemian writer.
There’s a practical reason: it was his only suit; he wouldn’t want to crumple it by wearing it all day every day. But perhaps it was the fake, imposed dreary discipline he needed. Perhaps the contrast, perhaps the deception (of those office workers? Of himself?) The daily fictitious escape from boringness and boredom.
When people ask about my ‘process’, mostly I want to ask what they mean. Does an office worker have a process? A plumber? A painter?
Or else I want to tell them I light a candle and dress in layers of my grandmother’s petticoats, I lie back on a Persian carpet, slowly I let myself sink, down, down to the depths of hell, to endless acres of boredom and self-loathing and despair, mainlining coffee and plugged in to deafening dubstep… only then can I begin to write on precious strips of birch bark, in my own heart’s blood, naturally.
I’m a writer, I make things up. What’s your process?
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