“Writers ever since writing began have had problems, and the main problem narrows down to just one word—life.” ~ William Styron, from “The Art of Fiction No. 5″

From one of the first interviews in The Paris Review (1954), the young William Styron (click on link for full interview):

INTERVIEWER (Peter Matthiessen and George Plimpton)

What value has the creative writing course for young writers?

STYRON

It gives them a start, I suppose. But it can be an awful waste of time. Look at those people who go back year after year to summer writers’ conferences, you get so you can pick them out a mile away. A writing course can only give you a start, and help a little. It can’t teach writing. The professor should weed out the good from the bad, cull them like a farmer, and not encourage the ones who haven’t got something. At one school I know in New York, which has a lot of writing courses, there are a couple of teachers who moon in the most disgusting way over the poorest, most talentless writers, giving false hope where there shouldn’t be any hope at all. Regularly they put out dreary little anthologies, the quality of which would chill your blood. It’s a ruinous business, a waste of paper and time, and such teachers should be abolished.

INTERVIEWER

The average teacher can’t teach anything about technique or style?

STYRON

Well, he can teach you something in matters of technique. You know—don’t tell a story from two points of view and that sort of thing. But I don’t think even the most conscientious and astute teachers can teach anything about style. Style comes only after long, hard practice and writing.

INTERVIEWER

Do you enjoy writing?

STYRON

I certainly don’t. I get a fine, warm feeling when I’m doing well, but that pleasure is pretty much negated by the pain of getting started each day. Let’s face it, writing is hell.

INTERVIEWER

How many pages do you turn out each day?

STYRON

When I’m writing steadily—that is, when I’m involved in a project that I’m really interested in, one of those rare pieces that has a foreseeable end—I average two-and-a-half or three pages a day, longhand on yellow sheets. I  spend about five hours at it, of which very little is spent actually writing. I try to get a feeling of what’s going on in the story before I put it down on paper, but actually most of this breaking-in period is one long, fantastic daydream, in which I think about anything but the work at hand. I can’t turn out slews of stuff each day. I wish I could. I seem to have some neurotic need to perfect each paragraph—each sentence, even—as I go along.

INTERVIEWER

And what time of the day do you find best for working?

STYRON

The afternoon. I like to stay up late at night and get drunk and sleep late. I wish I could break the habit but I can’t. The afternoon is the only time I have left and I try to use it to the best advantage, with a hangover.

INTERVIEWER

Do you use a notebook?

STYRON

No, I don’t feel the need for it. I’ve tried, but it does no good, since I’ve never used what I’ve written down. I think the use of a notebook depends upon the individual.

INTERVIEWER

Do you find you need seclusion?

STYRON

I find it’s difficult to write in complete isolation. I think it would be hard for me on a South Sea island or in the Maine woods. I like company and entertainment, people around. The actual process of writing, though, demands complete, noiseless privacy, without even music; a baby howling two blocks away will drive me nuts.

INTERVIEWER

Does your emotional state have any bearing on your work?

STYRON

I guess like everybody I’m emotionally fouled up most of the time, but I find I do better when I’m relatively placid. It’s hard to say, though. If writers had to wait until their precious psyches were completely serene there wouldn’t be much writing done. Actually—though I don’t take advantage of the fact as much as I should—I find that I’m simply the happiest, the placidest, when I’m writing, and so I suppose that that, for me, is the final answer. When I’m writing I find it’s the only time that I feel completely self-possessed, even when the writing itself is not going too well. It’s fine therapy for people who are perpetually scared of nameless threats as I am most of the time—for jittery people. Besides, I’ve discovered that when I’m not writing I’m prone to developing certain nervous tics, and hypochondria. Writing alleviates those quite a bit. I think I resist change more than most people. I dislike traveling, like to stay settled. When I first came to Paris all I could think about was going home, home to the old James River. One of these days I expect to inherit a peanut farm. Go back home and farm them old peanuts and be real old Southern whisky gentry.

“It’s easier to write about those you hate—just as it’s easier to criticize a bad play or a bad book.” ~ Dorothy Parker, from “The Art of Fiction No. 13″

No time for regular post, but found this wonderful interview from 1956 with Dorothy Parker (Oh, I would have loved to have a conversation with this woman) in The Paris Review (click on link for full interview). Enjoy:

INTERVIEWER (Marion Capron)

What was it about the twenties that inspired people like yourself and Broun?

PARKER

Gertrude Stein did us the most harm when she said, “You’re all a lost generation.” That got around to certain people and we all said, Whee! We’re lost. Perhaps it suddenly brought to us the sense of change. Or irresponsibility. But don’t forget that, though the people in the twenties seemed like flops, they weren’t. Fitzgerald, the rest of them, reckless as they were, drinkers as they were, they worked damn hard and all the time.

INTERVIEWER

Did the “lost generation” attitude you speak of have a detrimental effect on your own work?

PARKER

Silly of me to blame it on dates, but so it happened to be. Dammit, it was the twenties and we had to be smarty. I wanted to be cute. That’s the terrible thing. I should have had more sense.

INTERVIEWER

And during this time you were writing poems?

PARKER

My verses. I cannot say poems. Like everybody was then, I was following in the exquisite footsteps of Miss Millay, unhappily in my own horrible sneakers. My verses are no damn good. Let’s face it, honey, my verse is terribly dated—as anything once fashionable is dreadful now. I gave it up, knowing it wasn’t getting any better, but nobody seemed to notice my magnificent gesture.

INTERVIEWER

Do you think your verse writing has been of any benefit to your prose?

PARKER

Franklin P. Adams once gave me a book of French verse forms and told me to copy their design, that by copying them I would get precision in prose. The men you imitate in verse influence your prose, and what I got out of it was precision, all I realize I’ve ever had in prose writing.

INTERVIEWER

How did you get started in writing?

PARKER

I fell into writing, I suppose, being one of those awful children who wrote verses. I went to a convent in New York—the Blessed Sacrament. Convents do the same things progressive schools do, only they don’t know it. They don’t teach you how to read; you have to find out for yourself. At my convent we did have a textbook, one that devoted a page and a half to Adelaide Ann Proctor; but we couldn’t read Dickens; he was vulgar, you know. But I read him and Thackeray, and I’m the one woman you’ll ever know who’s read every word of Charles Reade, the author of The Cloister and the Hearth. But as for helping me in the outside world, the convent taught me only that if you spit on a pencil eraser it will erase ink. And I remember the smell of oilcloth, the smell of nuns’ garb. I was fired from there, finally, for a lot of things, among them my insistence that the Immaculate Conception was spontaneous combustion.

INTERVIEWER

Have you ever drawn from those years for story material?

PARKER

All those writers who write about their childhood! Gentle God, if I wrote about mine you wouldn’t sit in the same room with me.

“People like me write because otherwise we are pretty inarticulate. Our articulation is our writing.” ~ William Trevor, from “The Art of Fiction No. 108″

Reblogged from theparisreview (click on link for full interview):

theparisreview:“Writers of fiction are collectors of useless information. They are the opposite of good, solid, wise citizens who collect good information and put it to good use. Fiction writers remember tiny little details, some of them almost malicious, but very telling. It’s a way of endlessly remembering. A face comes back after years and years and years, as though you’ve taken a photograph. It’s as though you have, for the moment, thought: I know that person very well. You could argue that you have some extraordinary insight, but actually it’s just a very hard-working imagination. It’s almost like a stress in you that goes on, nibbling and nibbling, gnawing away at you, in a very inquisitive way, wanting to know. And of course while all that’s happening you’re stroking in the colors, putting a line here and a line there, creating something that moves further and further away from the original. The truth emerges, the person who is created is a different person altogether—a person in their own right.”—William Trevor, The Art of Fiction No. 108

“Writers of fiction are collectors of useless information. They are the opposite of good, solid, wise citizens who collect good information and put it to good use. Fiction writers remember tiny little details, some of them almost malicious, but very telling. It’s a way of endlessly remembering. A face comes back after years and years and years, as though you’ve taken a photograph. It’s as though you have, for the moment, thought: I know that person very well. You could argue that you have some extraordinary insight, but actually it’s just a very hard-working imagination. It’s almost like a stress in you that goes on, nibbling and nibbling, gnawing away at you, in a very inquisitive way, wanting to know. And of course while all that’s happening you’re stroking in the colors, putting a line here and a line there, creating something that moves further and further away from the original. The truth emerges, the person who is created is a different person altogether—a person in their own right.”

~ William Trevor, The Art of Fiction No. 108

 

Yep, I just backposted . . .

Ongoing computer woes, getting ready for Corey to come home—between those and other random acts of nonsense, I couldn’t get any posts up. Sorry for the onslaught of back-dates, but I want to keep my post-a-day roll going, even if I have to cheat (says a lot about me, doesn’t it?)

Real post tomorrow?

And because this post is so lame, I thought I’d add this link to something that will melt even the hardest of hearts:

21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity

People aren’t always awful. Sometimes, they’re maybe even just a little bit wonderful. Here are 21 pictures to remind you of that fact.