Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A great quote from John Gardner

Hanging on my office walls is a photocopied page of John Gardner's On Becoming a Novelist.  On the page, I have highlighted a long passage that I read quite often when I reflect back on how long I've been writing these novels and am still without a literary agent or publisher.

It starts on page 46:

"No human activity I know of takes more time than writing: it's highly unusual for anyone to become a successful writer if he cannot put in several hours every day at his typewriter.  (Even for a successful professional, it can take a while to get into the mood, takes hours to get a few good pages of rough draft, and many many hours to revise them until they bear repeated readings.)  Of necessity the writer is unlike those of his friends who quit work at five; if he has a wife and children, the writer cannot pay as much attention to them as his neighbors do theirs, and if the writer is worthy of his profession, he feels some guilt over this.  Because his art is such a difficult one, the writer is not likely to advance in the world as visibly as do his neighbors; while his best friends from high school or college are becoming junior partners in prestigious law firms, or operating their own mortuaries, the writer may be still sweating out his first novel."

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