Envying Georges Simenon

October 27, 2018 at 12:52 am | Posted in Simenon, writers' habits, Writing - tools of the trade | Leave a comment
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It’s been aeons since I wrote in this. I’ve been writing heaps, but not here. There have been paid writing and editing jobs plus rewriting a novel, ‘After She Left’, which will be published in May.

And all this time I haven’t been able to get Simenon out of my mind. I haven’t even read many of his novels, and none of the famous Maigret series, but I feel sick with envy at his productivity. (What is the noun of prolific? Prolificness? Prolificity? – Suffice to say that Simenon put new meaning into the adjective, prolific.)

The reason behind his prodigious productivity was that he had to make the money to pay alimony to all his ex-wives. The method behind it is even more interesting.

He had the reputation of getting his novels published after writing only one draft. That has since been disproved. He did two drafts – only two! I’m nauseated with envy and I think: if I could just copy his method, maybe that would work for me too!

A writer’s routine to emulate?

His routine was: up at dawn and put on a freshly ironed special writing shirt; scribble like mad for many hours with lots of sharpened pencils; finish the novel begun a few days before; vomit from the psychic stress of it; and go out and sleep with a prostitute. (I would hope that he added to that routine a penultimate chore: clean teeth.)

So, could I be like that? I can see myself in the ironed shirt – a man’s white cotton one, got from St Vinny’s or off a man’s back. I can see the sharpened pencils lined up on my desk. I can see myself doing that first draft, dredging it all up from my psychic depths to the extent that I vomit … no. I can’t. Nothing is worth that amount of suffering.

I don’t imagine anyone enjoys throwing up but I have a neurotic dread of it. I get scared my eyes will fall out. The last time I vomited was from food poisoning in late 2004. The time before was for the same reason, in Egypt on a 1st class train in early 1985. I take care not to do it very often. (I guess the silver lining of that neurosis is that I could never develop the worse one of bulimia, not that I should be making jokes about a serious condition like that.)

Fall seven times, stand up eight (Japanese proverb)

So I’ll have to put my dreams of being a female Simenon behind me and accept that I’m like every other writer, and that for us, writing is rewriting. I usually write a scene umpteen times before it sounds right. Or I think I get it right but my editor doesn’t think so and I have to rewrite several times in order to address all the problems in it. No. There’s no way around it. We just have to put in the time and effort. No prostitutes or toy boys for us, then – ha! – or at least not daily! (Easy to guess why Simenon couldn’t make his marriages work – I can’t imagine many women who would put up with all that ironing and sharpening pencils for a philanderer like that!)

And maybe we will develop an output of more consistently high quality that way. After all, Simenon might have nailed the gold medal in the productivity race but most critics agree that only a few were high quality; many, if not most, were just pot-boilers.

Maybe I have to accept the sort of output where it gets to be a quarter-century between novels. But I shouldn’t feel bad about it because I’ve been productive in other areas, typing away on non-fiction that gets into print, as well as novels that don’t. And at least non-fiction requires far fewer drafts than novels and short stories. Plus I feel actively happy that I have managed to make a living through writing without having to vomit every day!

 

 

 

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January 19, 2016 at 11:30 pm | Posted in Andrea Goldsmith, Books, Writing, Writing - tools of the trade | 1 Comment

Continue Reading My Little Brother Typewriter and Andrea Goldsmith’s Not Nostalgia…

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