Monday, September 10, 2012

Every Day I Iron The Shirt

By Reece Hirsch

I don’t have many quirks, rituals or fussiness about my writing process.  In fact, much of my new book was written on a laptop on the BART train riding back and forth from my job in San Francisco, so I have perfected the ability to zone out a cornucopia of urban sights, sounds and smells.

But I do have one simple writing ritual.  I didn’t exactly realize that I was doing it until I read an interview with the screenwriter Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King) and he put his finger on it with the perfect analogy.

LaGravenese compared the writing process to ironing a shirt.  You write a paragraph, and then you go over it.  Then you write another paragraph, then you go over both paragraphs.  Each time you go a bit further.

I am not the sort of writer who can tear right through a first draft and then tidy things up later.  Whenever I sit down to write, I always have to start by rereading and editing what I wrote the previous day.  I’m afraid that’s all I’ve got, but if you’re looking for idiosyncratic writing rituals, how about these:

     *          Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up at his typewriter.

     *          Truman Capote described himself as a “horizontal novelist.”  In 1957, he told the Paris Review, “I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy.  I’ve got to be puffing and sipping.  As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis.”

     *          Balzac drank vast quantities of black coffee and sometimes wrote for 48 hours straight.

     *          To keep from procrastinating, Victor Hugo wrote in the nude because it prevented him from leaving the house.  As an extra precaution, he would instruct his valet to hide his clothes.

Most of these techniques would get me ejected from the BART train.


Meredith Cole said...

Writing on your way to work--that's something car commuters shouldn't attempt, Reece!

I used to write in noisy coffee shops a lot in NYC--instead of my noisy house. I wondered why I could tolerate it in a cafe, but I think it's easier to block out noise that you don't have to do anything about. And sometimes noise helps you concentrate on your writing.

Reece said...

I agree, Meredith. It seems perverse but sometimes it's easier to concentrate with a little random noise. The Overlook Hotel was nice and quiet and look how that turned out for Jack ....

lil Gluckstern said...

Very funny, Reece. I think the public vision of a nice, quiet place is that we have so little of this in our daily lives. So you make it work for you.

Howard Sherman said...

I can say for sure I need an adjustment or two to my own writing procress Life has been getting in the way.

It's a grand life and I thank God for it but still... I wish I could have a clearer path to get a bit more writing done.

Reece said...

Thanks, Lil. It would be nice to take six months in a cabin, grow a beard and come down from the mountain with a novel, but I am not that guy.

Howard -- I hear you. Best of luck to you in carving out some writing time.

Unknown said...

I don't know, Reece. Writing nude on Bart just might lead to a new book, right after your arrest.

Reece said...

Sue Ann -- That would definitely be a different way to go with my next book!