Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 183, Tobias Wolff

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INTERVIEWER: Why don’t writers like to talk about what they’re working on?

TOBIAS WOLFF: Writers are superstitious. I don’t mean knock on wood, throw salt over the shoulder—let me try to explain. I began this whole writing enterprise with the idea that you go to work in the morning like a banker, then the work gets done. John Cheever used to tell how when he was a young man, living in New York with his wife, Mary, he’d put on his suit and hat every morning and get in the elevator with the other married men in his apartment building. These guys would all get out in the lobby but Cheever’d keep going down into the basement, where the super had let him set up a card table. It was so hot down there he had to strip to his underwear. So he’d sit in his boxers and write all morning, and at lunchtime he’d put his suit back on and take the elevator up with the other husbands—men used to come home for lunch in those days—and then he’d go back to the basement in his suit and strip down for the afternoon’s work. This was an important idea for me—that an artist was someone who worked, not some special being exempt from the claims of ordinary life.

via Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 183, Tobias Wolff.

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  1. September 28, 2014

    HA! What a fun post. John Cheever and Tobias Wolff are awesome as well as the Paris Review. Enjoyed this a lot, Vickie. 🙂

  2. September 28, 2014

    What a fabulous excerpt! That image is going to stay with me for some time!

  3. September 28, 2014

    Amusing but truthful anecdote. People often seem to think being a writer or artist or working at home means a lot of goofing off and downtime, but that’s not at all the case for those who are serious about their craft. Indeed, they may even be harder on themselves than your average person—sort of making up for not having a boss, but being the boss themselves.

  4. September 28, 2014

    A good idea if a bit baroque and bizarre; about the hot basement!

    • October 1, 2014

      For some people (I can relate) making an endeavor supremely unique keeps their gumption up, even if that individuality comes at the price of physical discomfort.

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