Ponderings by Henri Bensussen
MCWC board member,
Mendocino Quill's editor, a.k.a. The Maven
The Maven’s early morning hours are devoted to reading, and one early May morning she read Adam Gopnik’s review of Anthony Trollope in the New Yorker, in which he notes that Trollope kept to a schedule of writing for three hours every morning. “Writing is turning time into language,” Gopnik says, “and all good writers have an elaborate, fetishistic relationship to their working hours. Writers talking about time are like painters talking about unprimed canvas and pigments.”
The Maven has never read a Trollope novel, but hopes to see the latest movie set in Victorian England, Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy. She remembers the first version, with Julie Christie playing the rich woman who is expected to choose a husband from among a crowd of suitors. These days, a woman need not marry, but writers are still forced to work out plot and character and scene to produce the play or story that brings them money: to pay for electricity, the internet connection, hardware, software, printer ink and paper and a roof to keep the rain off it.
Writers at work use up precious hours each day to create something new. Or at least a new way to interpret the seven basic plots. The Maven heard a writer say she chains herself to her desk until 1000 words are written, even if she misses breakfast, which, to The Maven, is unthinkable. It’s when the dinner dishes are done that she devotes herself to crafting words. She’s formed that habit from all the years she was a working mother, when evenings were the only time left for such personal work.
What did Trollope write about in his allotted three hours? Gopnik says “Trollope’s people are all doing things that are small: getting on committees, making sermons, writing to newspapers, finding misplaced checks. …Yet these acts are hugely important to them, and become so to us.”
What’s important to The Maven this month is ordering her poems into some kind of manuscript. She sits at the computer for hours, thinking. Some might suspect she’s really sleeping, propped up in her office. What she’s doing is reading over a set of words, deciding which can be dropped, which should be changed, where a line should break, how to end a poem in a way that elicits a sigh from the audience. She calls this work “my time,” and knows she’s earned it.
Note: Is this the time, and place, for your next burst of writing?
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