June 3, 2013

Misery Loves Miserable Company

I have been cleaning – the frenzied kind that leaves piles of debris all over the house, detritus that will be swept out, later rather than sooner.  The impetus is party, a non-negotiable deadline.  Everything is a mess, the process is a bore, and progress seems inconceivable. Sounds a bit like writing sometimes.  Although I love carving words into characters, the effort can feel Herculean.  At these moments I take solace in the struggles of others.  Misery, I once learned, loves miserable company.  Here are some of my comrades:

John McPhee writing to his daughter Jenny, then an assistant editor at Alfred A. Knopf:

After four months and nine days of staring into this monitor for what has probably amounted in aggregate to something closely approaching a thousand hours, that’s enough.  I’m going fishing.

The New Yorker, April, 29, 2013.


Michael Ondaatje speaking to Tom Barbash:

It takes about a year for me to get over a book.  I can’t just leap into the next one.

“Always Apprentices: The Believer Presents Twenty-two conversations Between Writers.”


Virginia Woolf in her diary:

Few people can be so tortured by writing as I am.  Only Flaubert I think.

             In “Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s Diatry” June 3, 1936


A realist and a romantic, Flaubert suffered over his words.  Imagine a week to write one page.  Apparently the words did not “flow out of him,” but there was enough of a current for “Madame Bovary” and “Sentimental Education” to emerge.   I take heart in this angst, that the correlation between artistic serenity and literary excellence is nil.   It gives me faith that the house will be cleaned before the guests arrive and my novel will get written – someday.



Virtual Clubhouse Editor and Founding Member,  Missy Wick

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