AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

04 August 2012

Pattern.


Tom McGuane, interviewed for "The Art of Fiction"...

INTERVIEWER
Working here at the ranch must make your writing habits a lot different than those of most writers. What kind of routine do you have?

McGUANE
Let me give you what my dream day would be, if I could stick to it. It would be to get up early, get all the horses and cattle fed so that wouldn’t be hanging over our heads, eat a bowl of cereal and make some coffee, and then go to some really comfortable place and just read for three or four hours. Most of my morning reading for the past ten years has been some form of remedial reading, my personal list of things I feel I should have read, all those books that make me feel less than prepared when I sit down as a writer. For example, this last year during the winter—a season when I have lots of time to read here—I read the King James Old Testament. I’d never read it. I’ve known for thirty years that I was supposed to have read it, but I never did. All this type of reading is a steady scrubbing away of the possibilities of guilt, of the fear of pulling my punches when I sit down to write because I feel inadequate in my education. I think you should expect a writer to be a true man of literature—he should know what the hell he’s talking about, he should be a professional. So this kind of preparation is one thing I’m trying to get covered, knowing, of course, it’s a lifetime project. Anyway, after I read I spend three or four hours in the afternoon writing, and then I go back working on the horses until dinnertime comes, eat dinner, and then spend the evening reading things I just want to read until it’s time to go to sleep. Of course, lots of things go wrong with that schedule. Part of it depends on the season, and there’s days you’ve promised to do things with the children, or days you’d rather go fishing or hunting, or days when there’s a problem with a horse and it takes four hours to get it straightened out. But that’s the pattern I strive for.

Read the rest at The Paris Review.

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