Thursday, November 12, 2009


by Barbara D'Amato

From my living room window, I can look out at Lake Michigan. In many ways this is very, very nice. I enjoy seeing the clouds and seagulls. The colors of Lake Michigan change as the sun moves. It’s never the same and always interesting.

However, I also see people jogging, rollerblading, racing, power-walking, and bicycling on the esplanade. And swimming until a week or so ago. Whether I’ve been slothful, hanging around the house, or have just come in from a two-mile walk, watching them makes me feel lazy.

I realize the ones I saw jogging or bicycling this morning are not the same ones running, rollerblading, or skateboarding at noon or in the evening—or if they are, they’re nuts. But they make me feel like a lazy slob, whoever they are.

The same thing happens with writing.

I asked one of my writing friends some years ago whether she subscribed to Publishers Weekly. She said, “Absolutely not! All those reviews would make me feel I wasn’t working fast enough.”

I have other writing friends who say either that they never read online reviews, writers' gossip sites, or other sites about new books that have come out, or that they read them only right after they’ve sent their book to their publisher.

When I read review publications, it seems like everyone in the world has a new book out. I should be working faster, working harder, working smarter. Even bookstores, which I love, make me feel like a lazy slob. They are a reproach to me.

Why am I still on page 129? I’ve been on 129 for three days.

Why did I just waste half an hour playing two games of computer crossword? Why do I keep going to the anacrostic site when I should be writing? Why did anybody invent online jigsaw puzzles?

Do you writers out there feel the same?

I should get to work right now. But maybe just a short round of drop quotes to wind down.


Sara Paretsky said...

Oh, Barbara, thank you for being honest enough to put this out there. You've described me, my behavior, and my guilt, to a T, but I've always been too embarrassed to admit it!

Mike Dennis said...

Kudos for your candor, Barbara. But just be glad Harry Whittington isn't still alive and blogging. If he had time (which would be doubtful), he would no doubt be constantly posting notices of his latest novel. He wrote 85 novels over a twelve-year period during his career.

Not a misprint. Eighty-five novels in twelve years (over 170 in all). That included one little stretch where he churned out--are you sitting down?--seven novels in one month!!!

I think if Harry were still alive, he'd be sending a whole bunch of writers to the nearest high, open window.

Barbara D'Amato said...

Thank you, Sara. I didn't think I was the only one, but still--

Mike, yes, and what about John Creasey? And today Nora Roberts. Yikes.

Michael Dymmoch said...


The guilt you describe probably separates writers from people who'd like to be writers. We're usually miserable when we're writing because we're not writing fast enough or well enough, but we're miserable when we're not writing because we should be writing or we have to write.

And we're so easily distracted...


But how good were those 170 novels?

Barbara D'Amato said...

John Creasey wrote 600 novels and used twenty-eight pseudonyms! I read and enjoyed his Gideon police stories many years ago. But Michael--many of his other books were not exactly special.

Mike Dennis said...

Michael, I've only read a few of Whittington's novels. Those were all out of the pulp paperback era, all in the noir genre, and all excellent. He's widely recognized as being one of the best noir writers ever.

Having said that, I have to also say that the ones I read were short, probably 35,000 words or less. But the stories were well-told, they felt complete, and the plots didn't feel at all rushed.

In addition, many of his novels were in the genre called "soft pornography" at the time. I'm not familiar with any of these, and I'm sure they were much more formulaic than his noir efforts.

Libby Hellmann said...

Um... Barn... will you send me the crossword website url? I'm kinda tired of Spider Solitaire.

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