“Delay is natural to a writer. He is like a surfer—he bides his time, waits for the perfect wave on which to ride in. Delay is instinctive with him. He waits for the surge (of emotion? of strength? of courage?) that will carry him along. I have no warm-up exercises, other than to take an occasional drink. I am apt to let something simmer for a while in my mind before trying to put it into words. I walk around, straightening pictures on the wall, rugs on the floor—as though not until everything in the world was lined up and perfectly true could anybody reasonably expect me to set a word down on paper.”
EB White, The Paris Review, The Art of the Essay No. 1
Ah, how heartened I was when I read this passage! EB White was a longtime writer for The New Yorker and reviser of The Elements of Style. EB also wrote the magical Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. This is a guy knows a thing or two about writing.
So, when EB tells me that “delay is natural to a writer,” you can imagine how much better I feel about the fact that some days, it takes me a while to get my writing motor going. I know there are many writers who highly structured in their time management. Their disciplined approach is one I truly admire and plan to experiment with.
But right now, for better or for worse, I seem to be planted firmly in EB’s camp. Like him, I walk around, fuss a bit with this or that (all too easy to do since I work at home) — all delaying tactics that I seem compelled to employ before I can start writing.
I know, I know: Eudora Welty used to write from 9 to 12 daily. Trollope wrote scads of pages a day and started a new novel as soon as he finished an old one. Hemingway wrote early in the morning and then went fly fishing or bullfighting. While I may not be as structured as these authors, like EB I eventually get down to business and then motor ahead. I could be hard on myself about this, but you know what? For now, I’ve decided not to be. Write on!