Sep 22, 2009

Typescript Stolen. Carry On.

If you want a good example of a writer’s persistence, check out Anthony Burgess’s account of having a typescript stolen.

"I wrote a book on the language of James Joyce, I carried it in its Gucci case towards a Xerox shop to be copied, but it was scippato on the way. The typescript was presumably fluttered into the Tiber or Tevere and the case sold for a few thousand lire."

His response to losing his only copy of a typescript: "I had to write the book again, not with too much resentment: it was probably better the second time."

This incident incites a kind of anxiety in me that only finds acquiescence if I make three or four different backups of all my files each week and hide them in various places. It would make me paranoid to explain where, but trust me, there are backups everywhere.

This is the same Anthony Burgess who begins his two volume autobiography by writing that a writer’s life does not go beyond a picture of the writer at a desk. He simply could not be stopped.

I have complained to friends about the mammoth effort of writing a novel. For the last one, I pecked out 600,000 words in five drafts. It started as my Jazz novel, transited to a complete history of one family’s long ugly battle to stay rich and powerful, and finally settled into a story about two powerful Southern women at about 80,000 words. Whenever a pity-party started in my own head – usually at the beginning of a writing day – I had only to think of Anthony Burgess weighing the loss of his Gucci case and his typescript and turning around to go back home and rewrite it from scratch. It sent me back to work.