James Thurber on writing and rewriting

August 10, 2012

A few lines from James Thurber today: first, on the fun of writing and rewriting:

The act of writing is either something the writer dreads or actually likes, and I actually like it. Even rewriting’s fun. You’re getting somewhere, whether it seems to move or not.

I do think it’s possible to both dread and enjoy the act of writing: these need not be mutually exclusive. And I know writers who are world-class procrastinators because they can’t bear the thought of writing, but who like nothing better once they knuckle down to it.

I also love this description of how Thurber’s act of writing appears to the people around him:

I never quite know when I’m not writing. Sometimes my wife comes up to me at a party and says, ‘Dammit, Thurber, stop writing.’ She usually catches me in the middle of a paragraph. Or my daughter will look up from the dinner table and ask, ‘Is he sick?’ ‘No,’ my wife says, ‘he’s writing something.’

Both quotations are from ‘The Art of Fiction No. 10’ at the Paris Review.