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Does Writing Get Easier?

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Tuesday, Jun 24, 2008

I read this article in the Guardian today—a brief interview with author/poet Luke Kennard. The interview is a standard Q&A, but some of the questions are quite probing. Like this one, for instance: “How do you survive being alone in your work so much of the time?” I don’t know if I’d have Sarah Kinson’s courage to point that one anyone’s way let alone a writer (let alone a poet). But that’s why we have the Guardian, I suppose. This question, though, did not elicit the interview’s best response. That came to this question: “Do you find writing becomes any easier over time?”


Kennard, author of The Solex Brothers, responds:


It always feels like starting again—like I have to relearn everything I thought I’d got the hang of. Sometimes I just sit there screaming into my hands.


What a great and terrifying image. It got me thinking—what do other writers think of this notion of writing “getting easier” with time? I did some Googling and I found that many writers are asked just this very question. Here are some of the more interesting answers:


Hubert Selby, Jnr said this in an interview with Cune Press:


The writing itself has been much easier since Last Exit [to Brooklyn]. I spent six years writing Last Exit to Brooklyn, but that time was spent learning how to write. And I started [to develop] the necessary tools in that process to do whatever it is needs to be done. But I have a very difficult time physically sometimes just getting the energy to write. Right now I have some energy, so I just keep writing. The Willow Tree was very difficult from that point of view. I just couldn’t get a sustained rhythm going. I’d write for a while and—for a couple of weeks—and then maybe a year I couldn’t write anything. So each time I did get back to writing, I spent most of my time getting back into the rhythm of the book. So as a result, my main time was spent on editing and rewriting. It was a monumental job, getting rid of all that repetition. Ahh. (Shakes his head.) So the actual writing was only a few months, but it was over a period of years. But the actual act of writing does become easier. Any job becomes easier when you apply the necessary tools to do the job. So you have to keep giving yourself challenges. I enjoy doing things I haven’t done before. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail.


Read the rest of that interview here.


Samuel Beckett wrote in The Critical Heritage:


For some authors, writing gets easier the more they write. For me it gets more and more difficult. For me the area of possibilities gets smaller and smaller.


.


I found that on a Google Book Search.


Rani Manicka, author of The Rice Mother, answers the question in her book’s Penguin Reading Guide:


The writing process is easy. There is no struggle with words, only with distractions: the garden, the phone, the television, the fridge, the pub. But usually I can be trusted to wake up in the morning, crawl downstairs, get a mug of tea, and switch on the computer. Good days mean I walk away having fed the computer 2,000 words, and lazy days mean I have turned away before even reaching 1,000. Like all things, writing gets easier with practice. Certainly I learned a great deal when my book was edited for the first time. Looking back at the original manuscript now makes me cringe.


My favourite response, though, is this from UK author Louise Doughty. She tells the Telegraph: “Writing gets easier once you know your allies and banish your enemies.”


Ahh, what a brilliant thought.


Now, look at this: A really cool poem by Luke Kennard called “The Murderer”.


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