Saturday, August 12, 2006

Joyce Carol Oates on Writing and Mood

Joyce Carol Oates on writing and mood:

One must be pitiless about this matter of "mood." In a sense, the writing will create the mood. If art is, as I believe it to be, a genuinely transcendental function—a means by which we rise out of limited, parochial states of mind—then it should not matter very much what states of mind or emotion we are in. Generally I've found this to be true: I have forced myself to begin writing when I've been utterly exhausted, when I've felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes ... and somehow the activity of writing changes everything. Or appears to do so.

From "Joyce Carol Oates" in George Plimpton, ed., Women Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews (1989).


litlove said...

I love this quote and wish it were always true for me. Sometimes writing can be emotionally alchemical. But sometimes nothing works and it would be better just to pay the bills and write out the list of household chores to be done.

Lee said...

A very good point. A surgeon doesn't stop to ask whether she's in the mood to operate, does she? Though of course the two activities aren't quite parallel, I'll admit.

Exhaustion and depression are the ones I find difficult to overcome.

BTW, lots of good posts lately!

LK said...

No fair -- Joyce Carol Oates simply has no room to talk about thin inspiration, given her output! :) I actually have a JCO anecdote: I knew students who worked with her, and she apparently is manic -- when she walks, she's about five feet ahead of everyone else!