From E.L. Doctorow, The Creationists

"Wherever fiction begins, whether in the music of words or an impelling anger, in a historic event or the importunate hope of a justly rendered composition of one's own life, the work itself is hard and slow and the writer's illumination becomes a taskmaster, a ruling discipline, jealously guarding the mind from all other and necessarily errant private excitements until the book is done, the script is finished. You live enslaved in the piece's language, its diction, its universe of imagery, and there is no way out except through the last sentence."

Agreed, my friends? Or is there some small piece missing, here, something of the joy of writing, the sense of being enslaved to something that flies as well as plods?

I do highly recommend The Creationists. A nice set of essays, although I bemoan the fact that there is only one woman among the many creative writers whose work Doctorow explores.


I don't know about the work "jealously guarding the mind" from other diversions. Maybe Doctorow's better at ignoring the temptations of other books, movies, and the Internet than I am.

Especially some days. *Sigh* :)
I can relate to that a bit, particularly when I'm in obsessive writing mode. But when I'm stuck, that's when I tend to float away a little bit.

But my toughest challenge is guarding my mind from the diversions of teaching--from giving all my mental and creative energies to my students and not saving any back for my book or me. It's one reason I'm considering leaving academia altogether; I've just never been able to make it work. In theory, there's more "time" and less routine, but in practice, grading, requests for recommendations, panicked emails, last minute technological emergencies, and other "urgent" tasks take a lot out of me.

And don't even get me started on facebook . . .
I will add this: when I'm really swept up in my work, I do become enslaved to the images--so much so that they won't let me alone and even creep into my dreams. Right now I'm stuck on a subplot plot point and had a character tell me something that absolutely changes everything, and I have no idea how to deal with it, but she won't let me alone about it.

Gillian Layne said…
A little intense for me. :) But yes, when a new idea takes hold, it can make completion of daily tasks a little dodgy.

I'm off to a big bookstore today, and I'm buying Macmillan!

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