kitchen table math, the sequel: Raymond Chandler on writing & school

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Raymond Chandler on writing & school

from Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney:
Chandler had his own system for turning out The Big Sleep and other classic detective stories. "Me, I wait for inspiration," he said, but he did it methodically every morning. He believe that a professional writer needed to set aside at least four hours a day for his job: "He doesn't have to write, and if he doesn't feel like it, he shouldn't try. He can look out of the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor, but he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at magazines, or write checks."

Thie Nothing Alternative is a marvelously simpe tool against procrastination for just about any kind of task....Just follow Chandler's regimen:

"Write or nothing. It's the same principle as keeping order in a school. If you make the pupils behave, they will learn something just to keep from being bored. I find it works. Two very simple rules, a. you don't have to write. b. you can't do anything else. The rest comes of itself.
Write or don't write, but if it's don't write, don't do anything else, either.

Never thought of that. 


Catherine Johnson said...

A friend of mine told me that's how they got one of their kids through high school.

This was a girl who was failing her courses.

At first they were paying for tutors in every subject, which was costing a fortune.

Then they decided just to go the Raymond Chandler route. They required her to spend several hours in her room every night without anything other than her homework to amuse her. No phone, no TV, no computer (I assume - this was a while back) ----

She ended up doing fantastically well.

MagisterGreen said...

I wonder how this will be received in those classrooms, like ours, where every young mind has a computer at his desk, ready to provide endless, learning opportunities.

Glen said...

I love the Chandler idea. Keep 'em coming.

ChemProf said...

Catherine, I was just talking with two colleagues about the challenges of getting writing done. I passed this along to them.

Jen said...

Hmm, new business idea? I promise to provide a boring room without internet access or any other distraction? Make you pay extra if you leave before your time is up?

Always got my eye out...

Catherine Johnson said...

re: Chandler

If only I could force myself to adopt it now!

ChemProf - I'm thrilled to see that you responded to this --- (college professors might be the acid test)

I wonder how difficult it is for attorneys to get their writing done?

Pretty difficult, I would imagine - but at least they have the benefit of drop dead deadlines.

Catherine Johnson said...

Actually Jen - that IS a business idea, potentially!

You could have one of those 'water cooler buildings' -- buildings where people like me rent an office so as to have some colleagues as well as a space to work -- but then you'd equip it with some monitoring devices that help people actually STAY PUT during the hours they need to be working --- everyone could descend upon the watercooler at the same time of day!

Jen said...

"everyone could descend upon the watercooler at the same time of day! "

And then when I wanted to clear the watercooler area, I'd turn the internet back on for 20 minutes...

Of course, to run this, I'd need to have someone with more willpower than I have to set up the scheduling and be the emergency override.

Though I did get the Willpower book today...

ChemProf said...

"Actually Jen - that IS a business idea, potentially!"

Seriously, we were talking about how hard it is to find a place to write. One colleague goes to a local coffee shop with her laptop. Our offices work poorly (it must be different at research institutions, but at our liberal arts college, in your office you are constantly interrupted by students or colleagues). I used to write at home, but that is more difficult now (I write as I am fighting my one year old for control of the keyboard). I'm trying to figure it out myself!

Jen said...

Hmmmm, I never thought of professors as a potential market. That *does* make it a more appealing idea in my city!