1951, via Ebay

The other day, Kerri Smith’s blog featured a potent bit of a Guardian interview with Dave Eggers, about his writing process:

“I procrastinate worse than anybody. Writing is so hard. I need eight hours to get maybe 20 minutes of work done. I had one of those yesterday: seven hours of self-loathing.

…Writing is a deep-sea dive. You need hours just to get into it: down, down, down. If you’re called back to the surface every couple of minutes by an email, you can’t ever get back down. I have a great friend who became a Twitterer and he says he hasn’t written anything for a year.

As one of Smith’s reader’s commented: “It’s not just writing; it’s any creative pursuit” and went on to describe the problems programmers have with interruptions.

Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

Which is why we were so heartened by Egger’s words: to read a prolific writer describe the struggles that we, and so many people we know, also seem to be burdened with these days…that he beats himself up for writing slowly (that’d be us), and his feeling that technology too easily breaks the flow, that what looks so easy is really HARD.

Reading the original Guardian piece, we discovered that Eggers de-activated his internet access in his writing space so that he wouldn’t have the distraction. “A four-month stint with wi-fi proved ‘deadly’ for his productivity and having no access at all ensures that he is not tempted to ‘look at Kajagoogoo videos and old ads for Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum’ on YouTube. ” He also only reads on paper; no screens.

So it IS possible to be a highly successful person without being totally wired by paying attention to what really supports your work, saying NO to what doesn’t, establishing boundaries (however quirky) and creating a clear space with just the essential stuff in it.

Modern Mechanix

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3 replies on “creative pursuit as deep sea dive (dave eggers)

  1. Thanks for this great post. I can so relate to the frustration of multiple interruptions. However, as a mom who would like to get back to doing more writing (I actually wrote a couple-hundred page dissertation once, in a former life, but now I have trouble completing a grocery list), I also have to say that I think sometimes too much emphasis on the “need” to have that extended, uninterrupted time can become an excuse for not writing what I can in the time I have. Sometimes you have to dive deep, but every day you have to at least get in the water.

  2. “Sometimes you have to dive deep, but every day you have to at least get in the water.” Amazing true words. Thanks Maria!

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