Saturday, June 16, 2007

Norman Maclean on Giving Up Everything to Write vs. Playing Croquet

Norman Maclean, author of A River Runs through It, talks about the costs of his writing, and starting so late in life:

I've given up everything to write ... I'm now getting so old I don't know whether I can write much more. I knew when I started, of course, that starting so late I wouldn't get much done, but I hoped to get a few things done very well. It's been very costly, though, and I don't know whether I would recommend it. I've sacrificed friends. I've lived alone. I work on a seven-day-a-week schedule. I get up at six or six-thirty every morning. I don't even go fishing up here any more.

When you're this old [84 or 85], you can't rely on genius pure and undefiled. You've got to introduce the advantages of being old and knowing how to be self-disciplined. You can do a lot of things because you can do what the young can't do, you can make yourself do it. And not only today or tomorrow, but for as long as it takes to do it. So it's a substitute, alas maybe not a very good one, for youth and genius and pure gift. And it can do a lot of things, but it's very, very costly. Sometimes I wish that when I retired I'd just gone off to Alaska or Scotland and played croquet on the lawn.

From At the Field's End: Interviews With 22 Pacific Northwest Writers,by Nicholas O'Connell, p. 193.

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