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How Camus Helps Fay Weldon Keep on Writing

27 February 2013

From The Atlantic:

It might be wise to take writing advice from Fay Weldon: Since 1967, the octogenarian has published more than 30 books. When I asked her how she’s managed to stay so prolific, she responded with a little-known line from Albert Camus about Sisyphus, the mythic Greek king condemned by Zeus to roll a boulder endlessly up a hill and watch it crash down again.

. . . .

“One must imagine Sisyphus happy,” wrote Albert Camus in 1942. Well, I do try. But the page is blank. I sit at my desk seized by sudden doubt, conscious of decades of pointless toil behind me and the few years in front in the certain knowledge that I will never get it right. Experience suggests one never writes the book one plans to write. Somewhere along the way it goes astray, some link between the sentences does not quite hold. It is never what one meant. Never will be. So what is the point of beginning the long toil up the hill, pushing and straining sentences along, forcing characters into molds which never quite fit, dragging a chain-gang of second thoughts behind? Olympus will never be reached. Sisyphus is bound to slip. The rock will come tumbling down. Let the blank page stay blank.

But if we consider, like Camus, Sisyphus at the foot of his mountain, we can see that he is smiling. He is content in his task of defying the Gods, the journey more important than the goal.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

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5 Comments to “How Camus Helps Fay Weldon Keep on Writing”

  1. Why can’t one imagine that the summit is reached, and that instead of just sitting there, the boulder is pushed on by the story’s true owners, the readers, to places unimagined by the writer?

    To believe that you’re only rolling a boulder uphill to have it crash back down is not “defying the Gods.” It’s called pessimism, and control-freak pessimism at that.

    Otherwise, yeah, the journey is important. But we all knew that.

  2. *blinks* 30-ish novels in 46 years = “prolific”?

    I think I define that term a bit differently…

  3. I think the key is to be happy with the way it turned out. No, it’s not the perfect shining story you first saw in your head. It’s become its own thing. Be happy with the story you created, not the (impossibly perfect) story you intended.

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