Sunday, February 15, 2009

Writing Routine: James Thurber

James Thurber

Does it bother you to talk about the stories on which you’re working? It bothers many writers, though it would seem that particularly the humorous story is polished through retelling.

Oh, yes. I often tell them at parties and places. And I write them there too.

You write them?

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.” I have to do it that way on account of my eyes. I still write occasionally—in the proper sense of the word—using black crayon on yellow paper and getting perhaps twenty words to the page. My usual method, though, is to spend the mornings turning over the text in my mind. Then in the afternoon, between two and five, I call in a secretary and dictate to her. I can do about two thousand words. It took me about ten years to learn.

The Paris Review, Fall 1955

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