Novelist William Gass passed away last week at the age of 93. He was beloved, or so it seems his novels were if the paeans to him on Twitter are to be believed. I confess I’d not only not read him, but not heard of him (that I recall) until his death. He’d probably hate me for that, but then he’d get some writing out of it so I’m not too worried.
What I have now read – or skimmed, to be honest – are some of the posts of aggregated quotes from Gass on writing. I will add at least one of his novels to my ever-expanding to be read list, and maybe you might, too. Meantime, these two passages (as compiled at LitHub) are keepers:
“Something gets on paper, and then it gets revised, and then it gets revised, and then it gets revised. And then I’m finally at the end.”
—from a 2005 interview with The Believer.
“I write slowly because I write badly. I have to rewrite everything many, many times just to achieve mediocrity. Time can give you a good critical perspective, and I often have to go slow so that I can look back on what sort of botch of things I made three months ago. Much of the stuff which I will finally publish, with all its flaws, as if it had been dashed off with a felt pen, will have begun eight or more years earlier, and worried and slowly chewed on and left for dead many times in the interim.”
—from a 1976 interview with The Paris Review.
There are no shortcuts in writing, much as I’d love cash and prizes for my first drafts. So I am posting these two as fuel. Reminders. Notes to self as I continue the work of revision on my current manuscript. The story of that story is a long one, and I cannot wait to tell you all about it. And I will. Soon as it’s finished. Thanks, Bill. He wouldn’t mind me calling him that, do you think?