Writing Process as a Way of Life

“You’re particularly fragile today,” a friend in LA told me. Writers are a moody bunch, but I remonstrated. “Actually, I’ve been unaccountably happy this week,” I said, which irritated him more. All I could say to explain was that Russell Crowe and other leading men of my age group had been in the tabloids lately, looking slovenly, out of shape, and dissatisfied. At least I did not have Russell Crowe’s problems, whatever they might be.

“Johnny Depp went off his nut before I did,” I told Larry. “I outlasted that guy.”

“Are you sure?” Larry said.

I told Larry even Daniel Craig might let himself go, after his final Bond is done. Craig is reported to be getting more than $65 million, plus endorsements and profits, from the movie. Having made his legacy, and with little chance of ever surpassing the impact of that role, surely he will give himself permission to slump a little and join us in the ranks of the unwashed.

Larry, an actor yet to earn his millions, said that that was what he was waiting for, he just could not wait to hit it big and stop working. Snickers and whiskey at breakfast!

I doubled down and surprised even myself by saying I felt blessed. Larry demanded to know what the hell was going on. I had to talk my way into the idea to know what I meant. I did not mean solely that I have survived to this point with what I was provided, or that my health is currently good, or that I have two handsome, strong, smart kids. It was not that I am fortunate to have wide interests, a bank of experiences to draw on, that I will be traveling again soon, or that I have known many interesting people, alive, dead, or on the page, some of whom have even loved me back.

What I meant is that I have no desire to slide into some other state, like sloth or gluttony or torpor, even if I were given the means to do so. All I ever really wanted was to share the texture of life with someone, see some things and write them, recover, and repeat. I have lived my life the best I could along the way, while trying to build toward being worthy and capable to have the way of life I thought I wanted, and now I am living a goodly part of that setup and find that I do not wish to quit. You see? I asked him.

Surprisingly, he did.

I was reminded how Hemingway insists writers must know their true feelings. His example is that he was surprised to find he was not sickened by the bullfight, as others said he would be, and in fact found aspects of it comic not tragic. No doubt there are any number of private, public, and planetary disasters, as yet unseen, galloping in like chargers from the night, but it must be acknowledged that having a life in process, which makes vulnerable but rewards vulnerability, feels sometimes like moving in time and tide.

John Griswold

John Griswold is a staff writer at The Common Reader. His most recent book is a collection of essays, The Age of Clear Profit: Essays on Home and the Narrow Road (UGA Press 2022). His previous collection was Pirates You Don’t Know, and Other Adventures in the Examined Life. He has also published a novel, A Democracy of Ghosts, and a narrative nonfiction book, Herrin: The Brief History of an Infamous American City. He was the founding Series Editor of Crux, a literary nonfiction book series at University of Georgia Press. His work has been included and listed as notable in Best American anthologies.