February 1, 2013

"I don’t ask writers about their work habits. I really don’t care."

"Joyce Carol Oates says somewhere that when writers ask each other what time they start working and when they finish and how much time they take for lunch, they’re actually trying to find out 'Is he as crazy as I am?' I don’t need that question answered."

That's a quote from Philip Roth, which I read just now on rereading one of the books I'd be most inclined to keep if I pared my book-books down to the minimum — "The Writer's Desk." I was going to type out the quote, but I tried Googling roth oates habits and found a whole interview surrounding it — from 1984.

Here's an interview with Jill Krementz, the photographer whose work is collected in the book. My favorite writer-and-desk in the book this one of E.B. White.


edutcher said...

After all, what works for them may not work for you.

Unknown said...

I like that photo of E B White as well. Very minimalist.

(OT when I typed E B I got corrected to EBAY. The world is truely coming to an end.)

Scott M said...

There are three golden rules for being a good writer. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are.

There are two schools of thought, in general, about work habits. Habit and inspiration. Inspiration is when you get that spark of an idea that forces you to sit down and get it out. Habit pays the bills.

southcentralpa said...

In the "without typewriter" category, I've always partial to George Orwell: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-fBjGihIsJW0/TtRUk6vdGhI/AAAAAAAAEu8/NfgDWWKhWN4/s400/George%2BOrwell%2Bat%2Bdesk.jpg

ricpic said...

Is Joyce Carol Oates an upscale Stephen King? I mean I can't recall anything of hers that doesn't have a huge horror element in it.

Philip Roth is pretty much defined for most people by Portnoy's Complaint. But the fascinating thing about him is the second wind he had as a novelist. The Human Stain and American Pastoral are great books on big canvas subjects.

Jill Krementz is one of those haute-monde demi-monde types who knows everyone who is anyone and photographs them. The photos themselves? Meh.

test said...

""I don’t ask writers about their work habits. I really don’t care.""

What a coincidence, that's why we don't ask questions about Joyce Carol Oates books.

Chip Ahoy said...

I'm a writer. Shut up, I am. And I gotta desk. Work space. Spaces. Gotta couple of 'em. This is the regular one, not the hummingbird one and any of the fish or plant ones.

1) reams of card stock
2) xacto knives
3) boxes of xacto blades
4) printer
5) printer supplies
6) printer cabinet
7) envelopes
8) express mailers
9) stamps
10) regular stationary
11) computer
11) surge protector
12) router
13) internet connection
14) stereo with music collection
15) heater
16) cooler
17) tons of matt board
18) snack table
19) stapler
20) quarts of glue
21) scissors
22) cutting board with grid
23) various rulers
24) string
25) regular printing paper
26) acrylic paint
27) water color paints
28) wire
29) protractor
30) felt pens
31) brios
32) colored pencils
33) 50 lb sack of plaster
34) latex gloves
35) spray paint
36) spray glue
37) black book binding tape
38) cellophane tape
40) water
41) chair that doesn't hurt
42) two good lights
43) soap
44) masking tape
45) scorer, something to make a crease
46) camera
47) thread
48) labels
49) brushes
50) spray diffuser
51) sheets of plastic
52) fixing chemicals
53) stain

(conflicting edits all over the place)

m stone said...

I think Chip just explained the "insanity" tag.

Known Unknown said...

I call bullshit on the E.B. White photo.
That spot looks way too uncomfortable to write in.

Jose_K said...

I liked Portnoy's Complaint also the Pofessor of desire. But also the Zuckermann series

dcm said...

I have the "original" book and I recommend it. titled: Lost in the Taiga. By Vasily Peskov. Published by Doubleday is US in 1994.

dcm said...

Has about 15 photos. black and white.

ndspinelli said...

Brian Lamb akways asked questions of authors about their writing habits on Booknotes. And the authors seemed to love to talk about their routine.

Sydney said...

Do you suppose writers are apt to lie about their work habits? I know doctors seem to. They'll exaggerate the number of patients they see in a day, or claim to finish their visit documentation right there in the room before leaving the patient.

Unknown said...

I want to live at Chip's house more than ever.

Ann Althouse said...

it has 58 photos. And of course they are black and white.

rcocean said...

Of course other writers are interested in other writers work habits. Novelists work solo - so of course they're interested.

BTW, reading the interview Roth comes off as a pompous twit. I wonder why in the earlier PI Interviews novelists like Jones, Hemingway, and Capote come off so much better. Did they get to edit them, or is Roth just a windbag?

Deb said...

Looks like Eudora Welty on the cover.