Fame, fortune and the nine to five
I was reading this very punchy piece in the Guardian about Enda Walsh, but one line in particular nearly stopped me dead in my tracks.
“An old guy and a younger woman come to my house and sit at my desk and basically do what I do: it’s all the things that go through my head when I climb up to my office at 10 past nine.”
Jupiter’s beard – this is one of the most inventive and exciting Irish playwrights, and yet he still finds himself strapped into the office shortly after 9am. What an appalling thought.
Then again, it’s probably naive (and implausibly romantic) to think that playwrights, artists, musicians or the genius who writes this while away their days, waiting for inspiration to strike and scrabbling for the quill when the bon mots comes floating in the window, as they contemplate the pleasant afternoon sun. But surely they can do better than turning a creative job into a nine to five? Even I was 30 minutes late for work this morning and this blog post is probably the most productive thing I’ll manage all day (yes boss, I’ll get my coat).
Walsh, though, is not alone in keeping regular hours for a highly irregular job. (He doesn’t mention what time he knocks off at, though. It’s highly possible that he quits at 2pm in time for Countdown, cocktails or reruns of Grand Designs. All are quality options.)
Nick Cave, purveyor of all things gothic and snarling, starts his day in his neat office next to his home in Hove before popping home to the wife and kids. Paul Auster fesses up to a solid six hours a day of writing. Jonathan Safran Foer is much more slack – he starts at the ubiquitous 9am but usually only lasts until noon. (For much more on various writers’ daily habits, go here.)
It is a little bit disappointing to learn that your creative heroes are probably tucking into their lunchtime sambo at the same time as you, or desperately willing the hours to fly by a little faster on a Friday afternoon so they can knock off and enjoy the weekend.
I’ll have what you’re having
Personally, I approve of the Graham Greene approach, which he detailed in this interview in the New York Times in 1971 with Israel Shenker.
“ ‘In the old days, at the beginning of a book, I’d set myself 500 words a day, but now I’d put the mark to about 300 words,’ [Greene says.] Did he mean that literally – a mark after every 300 words? Precisely. With an x he marks the first 300 words, 600x comes next, 900x after 900 words.”
Of course, the idea is to force yourself as a writer to limit the amount of words you use and make each one count. But it also leaves plenty of time in the day for cocktails. And seeing as I’m tipping up to the 500, my work here is done.