Patricia Highsmith Understood

If you can find an article from the November 1964 issue of The Writer (reprinted in February 2008), there is a wonderful article by suspense novelist Patricia Highsmith. As we all know, or eventually learn, writers must write or go crazy from the frustration of dealing with our chaotic lives. At the same time, we often have heavy obligations that are not of our own choosing.

In the above article, Patricia gives her invaluable rules for writing, including a discussion about losing one’s enthusiasm for a story when faced with constant opposition. In stronger terms than “frustration” she refers to reality, people, obligations and nonprivacy. Even thinking about a story when surrounded by other people can destroy it, something I had not realized.

My conclusion from reading the article is that I and all writers must find a way to continue the creative process. Easier said than done when we work full-time at other pursuits, but we have to build time into our days, or at least our weeks, that is just for us. We need solitude.

When leaving the office means going home to change clothes so we can keep right on working, something is wrong. Leaving the office “brain-dead” wastes even more time in unwinding, even when someone at home has done the breakfast and (their) lunch dishes before we get home.

In today’s worrisome economy, just having a job is a blessing, but we have to leave it behind before we hit the button for the elevator. And certainly before we pull out into traffic. In today’s world of unlicensed, uninsured, arrogant drivers, getting behind the wheel demands our full attention. That means we can’t work on our novel on the road either!

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