“Life is inconsistent. Art is inconsistent. You work in the same vein for a lot of years, there are gonna be times when you like it better than other times. I think it’s true for any profession.”
Larry McMurtry is the author of dozens of novels, including Lonesome Dove, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize, Terms of Endearment, and The Last Picture Show. He’s also penned some 30 screenplays and won an Academy Award for his adaptation of E. Annie Proulx’s story, “Brokeback Mountain.” Now in his 80s, he has a new novel out called The Last Kind Words Café, and recently published the second volume of a memoir, called Literary Life.
Since the very beginning of his career, Larry’s been hugely successful in getting his books made into films. His debut novel, Horeseman, Pass By was optioned almost before the ink was dry and became Hud, a popular film starring Paul Newman.
In his new memoir, Larry notes that he wrote one of his best-loved books, The Last Picture Show, in three weeks. “There had been a family crisis, I was angry, and I wrote the book very quickly,” he says. “It wasn’t a very good book,” he adds, noting that he prefers its sequel, Duane’s Depressed. “I’ve never liked it much, and I think I’ve written a dozen novels that are better, maybe more.”
Larry went through a major rough patch that lasted nine years, in which he didn’t really like anything he wrote. This low period began with Terms of Endearment in 1975 and lasted until he began a novel called Desert Rose in 1983. That book was followed by Lonesome Dove, his Western epic set built around a cattle drive, which became a major miniseries and went on to snag a Pulitzer.
Here’s what impresses me most about this success story: Even when Larry was feeling low on inspiration and motivation during his nine-year rough patch, he never stopped writing. In fact, during this time, he turned out two more novels. And at the far end of his almost decade-long “dry spell,” he penned a bestseller, Lonesome Dove.
So often, when our writing isn’t going well and our motivation is low, we’re tempted to quit, to throw in the towel. I’m betting that Larry felt that way himself about his work.And yet, he wrote through that tough time and came out the other side with a novel that’s beloved by readers and considered a classic in its genre. Let’s take heart from his gritty persistence and bring that same commitment to our own work — and write on!