Monday, November 19, 2012

Writing, Philip Roth and us.

Of all the great American writers of the second-half of the 20th Century, perhaps the most important (and prolific) is Philip Roth. Not only did his productive period last more than 55 years, from "Goodbye, Columbus" in 1959 to "Nemesis" in 2010, his output has also been of unusually high-quality.

Just yesterday in an interview in "The New York Times," Roth announced that he was retiring. Over the last eight years Roth has written six well-received books, so his announcement came to many as a surprise. You can read the Roth interview here:

Roth is no spring chicken. He'll be 80 in March, so when Shakespeare was his age, he was already dead for 28 years.

Here's what struck me most from the "Times'" interview with Roth. "On the computer in Philip Roth's Upper West Side apartment is a post-it note that reads, "The struggle with writing is over." Roth claimed, "I look at that note every morning and it gives me such strength."

"I can't face anymore days," he said "when I write five pages and throw them away. I can't do that anymore."

I am not 80 like Roth. And not successful like Roth. I've had just two fiction pieces published in my life. Both when I was in my 20s. None for almost 30 years.

And I'm lucky. I try to write this incidental writing everyday. It's given me a discipline I never had before. And it's allowed me to write about the world, the business I love and also given me space to develop characters like my father--about whom I've posted a dozen or so pieces, Uncle Slappy who makes more appearances and me and Whiskey as walkers in New York.

Of course, I'm not Roth. I am to Roth was Bazooka Joe is to Eliot.

That said, like Roth, I define myself by my writing. I struggle with it and try to write at least five days a week. Witness my over 3,000 posts. Not to mention the copy I get paid to write.

My struggle with writing isn't over. I hope it never will be. I want to spend my old age writing corporate communications--annual reports, corporate speeches and the like.

And maybe I'll finally take to fiction again. Or write a history of Grand Central Terminal. Or my little patch of Manhattan. Or something.

Writing is a struggle because it is a commitment.

There is something there for people to aim at.

The words don't disappear once they are written, the way talk does when it's uttered.

I will continue my struggles.

With work.

With life.

With New York.

With writing.

Thank you for helping me with them.

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