Monday, April 03, 2006

Conrad: the heart of whining

This is for writers everywhere and anyone who's ever moaned about a deadline:

"The other day in a moment of mental aberration I allowed myself to be pinned down to a date by a wild (but amiable) American publisher. He’s gone back, whooping, to his native wilderness of skyscrapers with the signed contract at his belt — and I wish it had been my scalp rather."

A quote from a letter by Joseph Conrad, which I found in Maud Newton (a great literary blog)--she was referencing an article by Curtis Sittenfeld on the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia (a sort of literary museum).

But isn't it true that writers also love deadlines? Don't we get used to them in school (have that paper in by Friday!) and then, ruined creatures, long for them ever after? (Unless we're journalists, who have found a writing life that incorporates deadlines.)

I have a writer friend who always used to say that she wished she had an agent because then the agent would make her write (i.e., give her deadlines). She has an agent now, and a recent deadline, and she moaned all the way to the finish (with her friends cheering her on). And she did finish, so maybe she was right in her longing.

One of the various hard things a writer has to do is to learn how to work in a life without deadlines. For many of us, no one is waiting with anticipation for us to finish our poem, short story, novel, no equivalent of Sister Pancratia, my sixth grade teacher at Blessed Sacrament School: have that poem in by Friday or you'll lose points! (It's also not necessary any more to put JMJ at the top of all my written work.)

It's a wide and deadly space, a no-woman's land, that I imagine right now as something like the moors in the Bronte sisters' books: gray, featureless, with sleet sweeping across it, no shelter, no stone or tree to fasten yourself to.

2 Comments:

Blogger Gina Ventre said...

I often feel like writing is like typing into a void or wading into one of those impossible swamps with sharp grass and dense, toxic trees.

You are worse than me with the coffee cups and bottles and potions on your desk. Is that a dead plant in the background?

4/05/2006 9:05 AM  
Blogger lucette said...

It's actually a jade plant which died and is sort of reborn--it has two shoots growing off the dead remains.

4/05/2006 9:51 AM  

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