Friday 16 December 2022

'(I have always greatly disliked writing)'

This startling throwaway remark, complete with parentheses, is to be found in The Missing Will (yes, I'm still reading it) by Michael Wharton, a man who must have written, whether he liked it or not, several million words (for publication) across seven decades. There is certainly so sign of his dislike of writing in anything he published, including The Missing Will, but I think he is telling the truth here, rather than striking a word-weary pose. I haven't written as many words as Wharton, but have certainly churned out great quantities of prose over the years, the bulk of it routine journalism of one kind and another, and I must say that I have rarely taken pleasure in the act of writing. For me – and I suspect for many others – the pleasure lies not in writing but in having written, especially if what I have written turns out readable and says what I intended it to say. Similarly, although I must have read many millions of words and thousands of books, I cannot honestly say I find the act of reading, in itself, gives me much pleasure; again it is the having read, having enjoyed and absorbed whatever was to be gleaned from the reading, having added something to the store, even if it is destined to be remembered only as a kind of faint after-image. The act of reading itself strains the eyes (and sometimes the brain), can be surprisingly tiring (or so I find) and of course can involve, even in the best literature, enduring some pretty tedious longueurs. Maybe, despite appearances, I'm not cut out for the life of reading and writing, though I cannot imagine living without them. I might even finish The Missing Will one day.

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