Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Victor Hugo Wrote Naked and You Can Too

Lapham’s Quarterly has a diagram of what rooms famous artists (writers, composers and painters) used to create their work.

My favorite — Victor Hugo apparently would write naked in his bedroom, telling his valet not to bring his clothes until he was finished writing. (That valet is an unsung hero and suffered for all of us.)

John Cheever would don a coat and tie, descend to his basement, strip to his underwear and, then, write. (I imagine Ric Flair has a similar routine.)

People make a big deal out of the fact that Virginia Woolf wrote while standing. Well, Ernest Hemingway would stand with a pencil in one hand and a drink in the other.

Demosthenes would shave half of his head while working on his orations. That way, he would not be tempted to leave his home until it was finished.

Most of the writers seem to go out of their way to create an atmosphere of discomfort while working, which would support Matt Shoard’s theory that complacency makes for lousy literature.

I think modern writers have an enemy even more nefarious than complacency, the Internet. The Web offers a multitude of distractions to tempt the weak-willed. Let’s say you’re working on the Great American Novel and need a synonym for “smelly.” Go online. Find the word “fetid.” While online, check your Facebook page and maybe a forum you frequent. Update your Twitter. Check the price of a Scottie Pippen throwback jersey. Watch an episode of Bones on Hulu.

And now you’ve wasted an hour of your life. In that hour, Hemingway could have finished six pages and a fifth of vodka.

On an unrelated note — love books? Want to write for The Rumpus? Want to write for The Rumpus about the last book you loved? Follow the link.

-Jason Lea, JLea@News-Herald.com

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