16 January 2008
I'm reading an article in the New Yorker about Malcolm Lowry. He wrote Under the Volcano, which I've never heard of before but they say is very good. The article is a profile about his troubled relationship with writing, alcohol, and his wife as well as the questionable circumstances surrounding his death. His death was ruled a "misadventure" which is a delightful way to say, "accidental." According to the article, Lowry wrote prolifically and often poorly. Despite his talent with words, he was only able to develop good finished novels with the help of his wife's intensive editing and comments. Yet, his novel is on a few of these top 100 novels of... lists that came out around the end of the twentieth century.
Lowry's story is encouraging because it reminds me that writing is not an easy process. In fact, it is often a painful one and many more words are erased, deleted, or crossed out than preserved for final drafts. Why does this matter now? It matters because today I wrote the first words of the first chapter of my dissertation. I took that scary step away from reading, planning, and outlining and dove right into some writing. This is where the scary part begins. I'm a big fan of the "write a lot, write often" school of thought, and a number of people agree. So for the record, I wrote 579 words today and hope to write as many nearly every day from now until my deadline. Let's hope that a good ten percent are worth keeping.