Thursday, 27 March 2014

Are some writers too productive for the Nobel Prize?

I read an interesting article the other day (Göran Everdahl in 'Vi Läser' (We are Reading) on the productivity of writers. Does the literary world look down on writers that write a lot of books, being synonym with; the fewer books the better quality? It is an interesting question and could it be true? Can some writers write several books a year and still keep up the quality? The interest in their stories? Or are the real writers those who struggle to finish a book every three year?

P.G. Wodehouse died in 1975 when he was 93 years old. He wrote five hours a day for the bigger part of his life. With so much writing you just can't publish three books! He was very popular among the general public but also with colleagues like Evelyn Waugh and George Orwell. I think most of us would put the two latter writers in another category of literature as Wodehouse. But does that mean that Wodehouse books are less literary? To be sure the readers probably enjoy Wodehouse's books more than the books of the other two who might need a little bit more reflection and has less humour in them. Don't we all love to laugh once in a while?

P.G. Wodehouse, Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates
They say that Stephen King, one of the most popular writers all time, published more text in 1996 only, than what you find in the Bible (Old and New Testament)! He says now he is slowing down with the writing meaning he only publish three to four books a year. Most writers fade in comparison to Barbara Cartland. She wrote 723 novels, translated to 38 languages and sold 750 million copies! So, can this be called art? Or is art only when a writer publishes very few books, struggles for years in between and is read by a few?


Graham Greene, Charles Dickens and Georges Simenon
Joyce Carol Oates is a very celebrated writer and very productive (42 novels, 26 short story collections, 10 poetry books and 9 books for children and youth, plus 16 non-fiction books and 10 theatre plays!) Another productive writer was Graham Green (37 novels, plays, film scripts and children's books). He said himself that he was not especially productive but methodical and for twenty years he wrote five hundred words a day, five days a week. Charles Dickens is another very productive writer. He always had two to three novels going (serials) as well as taking long trips with the family, working as an editor in chief for a magazine and much more. During the night time he took long walks to try to get rid of his excess energy. Georges Simenon, the creator of Inspector Maigret wrote around 200 novels. The modern thriller writer James Patterson has already written 118 novels and publishes around 10 novels a year! Seems like some writers have a lot of energy and ideas.

Maria Popova is a Bulgarian writer and blogger who has researched the sleeping habits of famous writers. It seems to have been a huge task since she gathered information from journals, diaries etc. There is not really any statistics on writers' sleep, is there? Interesting enough it seems that most writers (there are of course exceptions) like to write early in the morning. I just mention some here;
Immanuel Kant and Edith Sitwell, 5 a.m., Ernest Hemingway and Edith Wharton, 6 a.m., Charles Dickens and Johan Wolfgang von Göthe, 7 a.m., Charles Darwin, Franz Kafka, 8 a.m. And now we come to more reasonable morning hours; Gore Vidal and Virginia Wolf, 9 a.m., Gertrude Stein, James Joyce 10 a.m., F. Scott Fitzgerald, 11 a.m. and Charles Bukowski 12 a.m.! There are also information on number of books, prizes received etc. As Popova says it is difficult to make a scientific conclusion from such data, but it is however, rather interesting. As you see, most of them are early birds.

Maybe that is why they are successful. I read recently the book What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast  (see my review here) and I am amazed what successful people do before breakfast. They go up at 3, 4 or 5 in the morning to exercise, read the paper or something else entirely healthy and which they have no time to do during the day! I knew there was something with my carrier. I am not in that position since I can't function before 9 a.m. and before 3-4 cups of coffee! Not that I mind at all!

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