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Whats the point in wasting paper?

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Article by Caren Kennedy © 19 October 2011.
Posted in Guest Blogs ().

Ernest Hemingway once said his best work was a story he wrote in six words:  ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’ 

I wonder  …  how many pages do you think Hemingway went through before settling on these six gems?  I’m guessing a dozen.  Or maybe not.  Perhaps he strung them together straight off the cuff.  Somehow I doubt it though.

What I am certain of is that screenwriter and essayist Norah Ephron says:  “In the course of writing a short essay – 1500 words, that’s only six double-spaced pages – I often used 300 to 400 pieces of typing paper … .”   (New Woman, 1991)

Perhaps more telling is what Barbara Kingsolver reveals in The Basics of Writing Bestsellers:  “I always have to write at least a hundred pages that go into the trash can before it finally beings to work … I try to consider them pages 100 to 0 … .”   Similarly, Philip Roth discarded more than 180 pages before fixing on the opening paragraph of his memoir Patrimony.

The other thing I’m certain of is that insecurities are common to all writers.  As this writer confided in his journal:  “My work is no good, I think – I’m desperately upset about it. Have no discipline anymore …”

Surprise. Surprise. Those were the words of John Steinbeck when writing Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath.

There are times when reciting all of the above helps at the end of a miserable day but this isn’t one of them. Today I feel like punching the lights out of Woody Allen currently whining “80% of success is showing up” on a loop inside my mushy brain.  Well, I did show up and nothing happened bar the printing out of page after page of convoluted gibberish that no longer exists on my computer.

Which is good in a way because instead of grieving my virtual nothing, as David Sedaris points out in his essay nutcracker.com, I can look at my loaded wastepaper basket and tell myself that if I failed, at least I took a few trees down with me.

For more about Caren, please visit: www.carenkennedywrites.com


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CAREN KENNEDY runs writing.ie's Word Play blog and is the creator of a television series currently in pre-production with Warner Bros TV and co-author of Fake Alibis (BenBella Books, 2009). As well as being a regular contributor to Journal.ie, publishing credits include local, national and international publications. In conjunction with The Inkwell Group, Caren also gives one-to-one mentoring on how to begin writing for television in her online course: http://www.inkwellwriters.ie/workshops/writing-tv-treatments. She is represented in the US by Vamnation Entertainment and TriadaUS Literary Agency.

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