Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Leonardo da Vinci, design for a tank.Image via Wikipedia

Dear You—

As a writer, I have long held to the view that writing well is so demanding that it requires the majority of my waking time – or, at least, most of the hours during which my mind is creatively fresh and active. How long is the latter? It depends upon many things, from one’s mental state to one’s diet and sobriety (don’t ask) and level of physical fitness (a movable feast in my case), but essentially I would say I am at my creative optimum for no more than six or seven hours a day; though I can certainly write longer if I am in the zone, and often do. Nonetheless, I will freely admit that my creative energy is a limited resource and needs to be allocated with care if I’m to produce at an acceptable rate.

Such a position may sound selfish, particularly when one’s family responsibilities and social duties need to be factored in, but I suspect I am stating no more than the obvious where artistic endeavor is involved; and feel safe to say that a degree of selfishness is fundamental to artistic achievement. Or, putting it another way: “Nice guys don’t paint the Mona Lisa.”

One has to wonder how Leonardo would cope today. Even in his time he was distracted by visiting condottieri asking him to rustle up some new military invention (Leonardo can lay claim to thinking up both the tank and the helicopter) but how would he cope if he was told that he needed to spend at least half of his time blogging, or on Facebook, or podcasting - not to mention keeping his website up to scratch and e-mailing the Pope to secure more commissions.

I’m prompted to write about all this after reading the advice, from a member of an internet based writer’s group that a writer should spend at least half his, or her, time marketing. I’m sure it is excellent advice, in a purely commercial sense, but I’m still in a state of shock. On the other hand, it is now crystal clear to me why so many writers drink. Where did I put the absinthe?

To restore my equilibrium, let me quote from the ever reliable John Irving, he of The World According To Garp fame:
“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.’
The man is a pleasure and absolutely right.

Farewell for the moment. Write soon. I miss your wit and your company.


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