Wednesday, 2 March 2011

No man but a blockhead ever wrote...

... except for money, said Samuel Johnson.

When reading some writers' descriptions of the writing process, one does have to wonder why anyone would do it for pleasure.

'He that condemns himself to compose on a stated day will often bring to his task attention dissipated, a memory embarrassed, an imagination overwhelmed, a mind distracted with anxieties, a body languishing with disease.

'Composition is, for the most part, an effort of slow diligence and steady perseverance, to which the mind is dragged by necessity or resolution, and from which the attention is every moment starting to more delightful amusements.' Johnson again.

Winston Churchill, among all his other achievements, found time to be a prolific writer. Not being a blockhead, and having expensive tastes, he  certainly did it for money.

'Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.'

Agatha Christie, through her alter ego, Mrs Ariadne Oliver, said 'first you've got to think of something, and then, when you've thought of it, you've got to force yourself to sit down and write it.'

Harriet Vane explains it, on behalf of Dorothy L. Sayers  and all other writers everywhere.

'When you get the thing dead right and know it's dead right, there's no excitement like it. It's marvellous. It makes you feel like God on the Seventh Day - for a bit, anyhow.'

And Samuel Johnson reminds the writer who is staring despondently at the blank page or computer screen 'what is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.' 

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