One of my heroes, Garrison Keillor had some more good and insightful things to say about writing, including the benefits of solitude and the malison of the ‘always-connected’ data-overloaded life:
The Internet and Google have their usefulness, God knows. I mean, how would we live without them? But you know, for young people with tremendously retentive minds, there’s too much upstairs. There’s too much data going in. If they didn’t have ADD before, they’ve got it now. They’re just bounced around like dragonflies on a pond.
I don’t mean to sound like an old codger, but I remember when I started out writing for the New Yorker I was living in a farmhouse in central Minnesota, because it was so cheap. It really removed a lot of the pressure of having to sell-sell-sell. I loved it there. I was desperately lonely, but that’s not a bad thing.
I was sitting in a room upstairs at a desk that was a sheet of three-quarter-inch plywood across two used file cabinets, looking at an Underwood typewriter, and typing on yellow paper. It was a contemplative life that had great, deep pleasure. I wouldn’t know how to recover it today.
This, for me, is how the world has changed, that a man sits at a desk in utter silence, and the phone line is simply the phone line. Somebody calls, and you don’t have to answer it. You sit in silence, and hours pass and you tap-tap-tap-tap at a typewriter. I will never, ever recover that life. It’s gone forever. And the college students I know will never know that life.
This is a rich exchange of views from a wonderful voice in all senses of the word … I recommend you read it in full on Tom Peters’ site (link below).
Some insightful comments about what experience teaches about writing/editing:
You do develop very quick reflexes of rejection and editing of your own stuff. When you’re young, you’re so fond of what you have created, because it takes a lot of effort to extrude this onto the page or onto the screen. You’re very fond of it, even if it’s wounded and you’re barely alive, you still have affection for it.
But as you get older, you learn how to throw it out without much thought, without much pity. You look at a piece that you’ve written, and you take those first three paragraphs, and you dump them. You just rip them out. Usually, that’s the part that needs to be thrown out, the big windup, the big introduction. The first page almost always can go. You learn to do that without regret. I edit myself much more quickly and mercilessly now than I ever could have 20, 30 years ago.
Lap it up … Tom Peters’ site.