Working (addendum)

…and another thing.

Such is the life of a working writer. Just as you post something or send a piece of work out into the wide world, there’s more you want to say, or something you wished you’d said differently.
My recent post on writing being work failed to mention that the reason why a writer must compose or work at it every day is that because for every day you are away from your desk the worse it is to get back into it. The adage used to be, for every day you miss writing an hour of time is spent at your desk in an utter daze. So, away from your desk for, say, four days, expect four hours of painful hesitation and stagnation. For some, it’s not the rule, but for me it generally is.

Another thing about the work day for a writer, and by writer I mean someone who writes novels, or plays, or short stories or essays, not someone who writes for a newspaper or magazine or blogs. A writer of prose or poetry composes in a very idiosyncratic way and for a very specific amount of time. Most writers, the ones I’m familiar with, do not rise in the morning and write all day until it’s time to don the PJs — we all can’t be Nora Roberts (supposedly, she spends the entire day writing, which makes sense given she cranks out upwards of two or three books a year). Reasons for the length of time spent actually composing, not including revising or taking notes, or reading or staring off into space, is very individualized. But I like what T.S. Eliot has to say on the matter, his thinking reflecting much of my own. This was from his Paris Review interview:

Partly on the typewriter. A great deal of my new play, The Elder Statesman, was produced in pencil and paper, very roughly. Then I typed it myself first before my wife got to work on it. In typing myself I make alterations, very considerable ones. But whether I write or type, composition of any length, a play for example, means for me regular hours, say ten to one. I found that three hours a day is about all I can do of actual composing. I could do polishing perhaps later. I sometimes found at first that I wanted to go on longer, but when I looked at the stuff the next day, what I’d done after the three hours were up was never satisfactory. It’s much better to stop and think about something else quite different.