Can I produce good writing with serious time constraints?

A reprise from the early days of the Literary Ladies blog:

Dear Literary Ladies,
I always thought that one needed great swathes of time to get any writing done. Now I hear that some esteemed authors worked in short bursts and still produced an enormous amount of brilliant work. I want to hear from one of you. How did you do it, and what did you do with the rest of your time?

I work from two and a half to three hours a day. I don't hold myself to longer hours; if I did, I wouldn't gain by it. The only reason I write is because it interests me more than any other activity I've ever found. I like riding, going to operas and concerts, travel in the west; but on the whole writing interests me more than anything else. If I made a chore of it, my enthusiasm would die. I make it an adventure every day. I get more entertainment from it than any I could buy, except the privilege of hearing a few great musicians and singers. To listen to them interests me as much as a good morning's work.

For me, the morning is the best time to write. During the other hours of the day I attend to my housekeeping, take walks in Central Park, go to concerts, and see something of my friends. I try to keep myself fit, fresh: one has to be in as good form to write as to sing. When not working, I shut work from my mind.

— Willa Cather, from a 1921 interview


Susan January 18, 2010 at 7:57 PM  

This is such a fabulous blog.

Nava Atlas January 19, 2010 at 12:40 PM  

Thanks, Susan! This blog will have a companion book that I am currently writing, titled The Literary Ladies' Guide to the Writing Life: Observations, Inspiration, and Advice from Authors Who Paved the Way - to be pubished in May of 2011.

Vintage Reading March 18, 2010 at 5:04 PM  

I'm delighted to have found this blog! I've just read Hermione Lee's biography of Cather and unfortunately there are no letters quoted in it. To find two Cather letters here is wonderful.

Nava Atlas March 20, 2010 at 7:26 AM  

I love your blog, too. I don't see a way to directly contact you, but I wanted to let you know that I'm adding your blog to my blogroll. I'd love to read "Jane's Fame"!

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Wouldn't you love to get advice from  classic women authors on writing and the writer's life? Here I fancifully pose the questions, and the Literary Ladies answer in their own words.

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