beating Auden – a writing game


English: Photo of W. H. Auden, 1970, taken by me.
English: Photo of W. H. Auden, 1970. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have this small writing game I play in my head.  Some days I keep score and other days I let W. H. off the hook.   Apparently, W.H. Auden would work at his writing for five hours a day, several cups of tea, an ashtray or three of cigarette butts, and some benzedrine.  At least some kind of pill, my memory may be playing tricks with the exact concoction he used.  Other writers would write 1500 words exactly, Hemingway pencil to paper and stop in the middle of an idea so he could begin again the next morning without hesitation.  Many writers have many rules and rituals, magical potions and incantations,  sharpening ten pencils was one I liked. Shelby Foote wrote seven days a week and every day of the year in a writing room where he slept.  He would not stop, for fear of the energy needed to regain his momentum.  He wrote his three volume history of the American Civil War with a dip pen and a bottle of ink.  You will likely recall him with his insights and syrupy drawl speaking as a talking head on Ken Burns‘ Civil War documentary on PBS. Check out his history of the Civil War, a masterpiece.

I am writing less these days and that is despite having more sophisticated electronic devices on which to scribble. A writer tries to find a way to make the effort of writing seem less difficult than it is. I went back in time and tried pencil, pen, typewriter.  I am considering a digital voice recorder or voice recognition software so I can just talk to write.  More accurately, mutter. I can confess confidently that I am evolving into a true muttery, ill, curmudgeon with all the trims and accessories.  Acidic manners and hair trigger rigged rants available 24 hours per day.  The odd bad joke.  A few million regrets and a surprising amount of wonderment as I read both history and new fiction.  I even bemuse myself with thoughts of more positive political results both nationally and locally.  Still an opti-cynic as someone labelled me thirty years ago, an optimistic cynic.

I get to the end of the day and consider the writing score: yesterday was Auden 5 me 1.  One hour spent writing. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t equate my puny efforts with Auden,  He is just my way of keeping score.

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Author: William J. Gibson

62 year old - writer/photographer Canadian, survived open heart surgery, received kidney transplant, sometimes dour, sometimes amusing, over six feet in height, severely follicle challemged

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