Done With Writing?

I just read in the news that author Philip Roth is ‘done with writing’. I had to laugh because my first thought was, ‘that’s what you think’ followed by ‘but is writing done with you?’.

The sequel to the Memory Keeper is done. The first draft actually. Which means now it sits for a while and then I start the editing process. This story was a struggle from beginning to end and I am very happy to have it on paper. I had to remind myself often that this was the first new thing I’d written since cancer, and the first thing after a two-year break. The break was due to the fallout from radiation and many times I thought writing would never come back. So while this first draft is very rough and there will be a lot of editing to do, I am so relieved that I finished. That writing not only returned but stuck around.

Now I have a new idea that I’m excited about. You know that feeling…when the idea has been kind of simmering in the background and now your fingers are just itching to get going. I had to force myself to not rush the ending on that sequel just to get it done so I could move on to what is going to be fun. I had to rein in that strong urge, that strange force that seems to push the story into you until you have to let it out through your fingers or your brain will explode.

Which leads me back to Philip Roth. I wonder how a person can make a conscious decision to quit something that is part of your creative psyche. It’s not like he’s going to now move through life and not see stories everywhere. So what will he do with those stories if he’s not going to be their channel to the page?

I wonder that with all forms of art. Can a painter decide one day to simply quit? Will their eyes no longer see beauty? I actually interviewed an artist who no longer paints and she told me she quit because she no longer felt the need to possess. That painting, to her, was capturing and holding. So obviously some people can shut off that creativity.

But writing? Maybe stories can leave a person, but I question a person being able to leave a story. Seems like they ‘d just spontaneously explode. Hope someone keeps an eye on Mr. Roth.

No particular connection between the photo below and this post. Other than it’s the perfect spot to write and across the road from my house.

9 thoughts on “Done With Writing?

  1. Since the permutations of personality types are all so different, I wonder if some people just don’t come to writing the way we do. My sister was able to stop. My daughter stopped, but I think she misses it deep down and tricks herself into thinking otherwise because she hasn’t got time to concentrate on stories. (I’ve suggested that maybe she could write smaller pieces, in pieces.)

    I stopped writing for a long time when my mother was extremely ill and then again when I was at the far edge of depression during my marriage. I didn’t write because I felt like they would stop me somehow if I started. But when a writer can control large enough chunks of their own time, and just decide not to write, it makes me wonder, too.


    • Good thoughts here. I definitely can see (and have experienced like you have) how things can shut down the creative side of our brain. When we have to simply survive day to day. I wonder, for those who have managed to stop writing, where that need for creativity comes out. Seems like it would have to translate into something, somewhere.


  2. Once again Lisa, sometimes just the simplest questions or statements from you sends me off on a curious quest of discovery, Thank You. You present some very interesting points here. So, Philip Roth who???
    I found an article about Philip Roth and his work in a short write up in The New York Times this morning. Roth said that he is finished writing books (the novel).
    and that, “… the idea of struggling once more with writing is unbearable to me”.
    The key word for me here is his word ‘struggle’. A critical element of what has fueled this man’s craft for years has gone missing. But what?
    The clues to what may be happening to this writer, this artist, may be found in his statements.
    He has devoted his life to a particular process, the writing of the novel.
    At some point perhaps, the nature of his work (creativity) began to take on a life of it’s own. Obviously his passionate creations moved many a reader.
    The popularity and uniqueness of his creations began to set a given course for his life, one of many he could choose from.
    I haven’t read any of his work. What I have read about is what they were about and how they were received by the public, another clue.
    Perhaps he feels that the process itself has now become the focus of his life and the creative spirit that launched it all has since taken a back seat for him.
    Is this artist finished with this particular canvass, the novel?
    Does something new and daring and fun in his mind make his hands twitch with excitement in anticipation to get out, to be created? Perhaps.
    I think we all understand the kind of drudgery we can experience when something that once gave us great joy and excited others when shared, is now a ball on a chain around our necks.
    Then we begin to wonder how we got there and can’t wait to escape the weight and dark of it, we need to make a conscious decision to change.
    Is this what Vaudeville artists began to feel with the new technologies of film and then television took center stage, a stage that was once theirs?
    We no longer go to a Vaudeville shows like our ancestors did, but if we look very closely, the entertainment elements of that craft permeate our culture and entertainment even today. Those elements helped define a people.

    So, I rejoice for Mr. Roth actually, I’m happy for him that he can see the light of freedom ahead. He is in a way embracing his destiny…
    He has ceased fighting it any longer, he has become willing to set it free, for perhaps in some way, that project is done and it is time to move on.
    Like the artist you spoke with Lisa who came to understand that she no longer needed to paint because she no longer felt the need to possess.
    I believe without doubt that, the creative spirit will lead Mr. Roth right into something new and exciting, different and fresh and as delightfully irreverent as his last project, his novels.
    I believe that the Creative force is unstoppable and never ending and perhaps how it manifests itself is simply a matter of choice. I think you are right, writing isn’t done with Philip.
    Again, thank you for getting me to think…it’s snowing*****!


    • The snow this morning was nice wasn’t it? These are really great thoughts here Bob. I think they need more exposure than just in a reply box. Mind if I post them as a P.S. to the blog post?


  3. I’ve always written, but there were years when I didn’t do any drawing except for making holiday and birthday cards for friends. I look back on that time now and wonder what on earth was wrong with me, but at the time I honestly thought I just didn’t need it in my life anymore. Could it be like the people who break up and then get back together again later, for good (or not)?

    I can’t really imagine exorcising writing or art completely, though. Even when I thought I wasn’t drawing, I was still generating those cards, often spending hours on each — clearly because my visual-creativity bug needed an outlet. I can’t tell from not having read interviews with Mr Roth, but maybe he’s only going to write privately from now on… like Bill Watterson, who has taken up painting post-Calvin and Hobbes, but isn’t showing his work to the public.


    • Did you keep any of the cards you made during that period? It would be interesting to see now how detailed they were, and if in fact, you were using them as an outlet more than you realized at the time. And I didn’t think about writing privately. I bet that’s it. Only because I can’t see choosing to give up something that is the creative part of us. Maybe he’s going to paint instead. I love your analogy of breaking up!


      • I do in fact have scans of many of them! They’re still up on my old website (although you can no longer access this page from anywhere except the direct link). They were definitely an outlet, as you’ll see from clicking on the thumbnails — they’re crazy-detailed in a way I can’t even think of doing anymore. They’re also very, very controlled in line and layout… interesting, no? 🙂


  4. Most people are expected to retire. But not artists and writers. Interesting.
    Why not? I am watching my mother (an artist) getting older now. She paints the same thing over and over. Of course, she believes it’s something new, but most viewers don’t see the subtle difference she does. She says she just doesn’t have the juice she used to. Right now, I can’t imagine not writing. But the idea of retiring one day doesn’t upset me, either. Who knows? Maybe he’ll take up painting.


    • Interesting. I never thought of it as retiring. I was thinking more along the lines of how hard it seems to get away from writing. It seems to follow and bubble up whether I want it or not. But put in the light of retiring, I could see ending.


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