Monday, January 1, 2007

Write. Read. Rewrite. Repeat.

Two quotations from Susan Sontag's essay "Directions: Write, Read, Rewrite. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 as Needed." From Writers on Writing, ed. John Darnton, Times Books 2001.

On Reading:

Losing yourself in a book, the old phrase, is not an idle fantasy but an addictive, model reality. Virginia Woolf famously said in a letter, “Sometimes I think heaven must be one continuous unexhausted reading.” Surely the heavenly part is that—again, Woolf’s words—“the state of reading consists in the complete elimination of the ego.” Unfortunately, we never do lose the ego, any more than we can step over our own feet. But that disembodied rapture, reading, is trancelike enough to make us feel ego-less.

On Writing:

What I write about is other than me. As what I write is smarter than I am. Because I can rewrite it. My books know what I once knew—fitfully, intermittently. And getting the best words on the page does not seem any easier, even after so many years of writing. On the contrary.

Here is the great difference between reading and writing. Reading is a vocation, a skill, at which, with practice, you are bound to become more expert. What you accumulate as a writer are mostly uncertainties and anxieties.

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