By hand

I recently came across this interview with Mircea Cărtărescu, the author of my most recent favorite book: Blinding. And I was stunned to find that his elaborate, beautiful, overwhelmingly stunning masterwork of prose was written by hand, in a journal, and barely changed from its original state:

When we had those very pleasant talks in The Hague together, I told you that I always feel embarrassed when having to discuss my crazy method of writing, because I know that nobody believes me. Even I have a hard time believing that I wrote a 1,500-page novel, over fourteen years, by hand, and that the manuscript, gathered in four big notebooks, is as clean as if I copied it, page by page. Better stated: it’s as if the text has always been there, but covered over by white paint, and my only work is to erase that paint, revealing the manuscript beneath. Fortunately, I have my notebooks as proof.

I simply can not imagine writing by hand, without the ability to fuss with sentence structure or constantly replace words. However, a lot of his way of writing and thinking about writing does resonate with me. I too have felt that I’m discovering a story that’s already there, and that the act of writing is not one of creating, but of putting down the words that are supposed to be there already.

I write just one or two pages a day, yes, only in the morning, and I never add or take out anything. But what is important is that I never have a plan or a story in mind. Each page is revealed to me at the moment I start to write. Each page could (and does) change everything. This is the only way that I can write, for writing is not a job for me, nor an art, but a faith, a sort of a personal religion. To continue writing I don’t need to know where I’m headed, only that I can do it, that I’m the only one who can.

I have this same kind of outlook whenever I write. I can only write very little at one go, and I never have a plan. It is encouraging to think that slow and steady really can get you to the end. Two pages per day is, what, 600 words? Less? That is not a monumental number to achieve every day (even though I don’t).

I also am never really sure why I write, other than for personal reasons. Maybe I could call writing my faith as well…

This is a very interesting article even if you’ve never read his books, check it out!

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