What Norman Mailer still teaches us

The Fall 2010 issue of Creative Nonfiction (CNF) is out, and is as captivating as always. This issue celebrates Norman Mailer.

Mailer was a prolific writer, crossing all genres: nonfiction narrative, fiction, essays, short stories, journalism and memoir. What can we learn from such a prolific writer? In an essay in CNF, Doris Kearns Goodwin quotes her friend Norman as saying:

“I found one rule, a simple rule. If you tell yourself you’re going to be at the desk tomorrow, you are, by that declaration, asking your unconscious to prepare the material. ‘Count on me,’ you are saying to a few forces below, ‘I will be there to write.’ ” What gets easier as you get older, he continued, “is that one’s professionalism increases over the years. By professionalism,” he explained, “I mean the ability to work on a bad day.”

So even if this is a bad day for you, its Saturday, and you showed up here. So, take half an hour and show up on the page as well. You’ll be glad you did.

I have read many of Mailer’s works but knew little of his writing life until I read the biography Mornings With Mailer, (my review available here).


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