Anthony Burgess could write a novel in four weeks
“I write fast. So what?”
Anthony Burgess (1917–1993)
Most of the time, I find writers’ descriptions of their work habits comforting. You don’t have to spend much time reading about, say, Virginia Woolf or Franz Kafka or Susan Sontag or Joseph Conrad or Lorraine Hansberry or Dorothy Parker to discover that getting quality work onto the page is a real struggle even for the most accomplished writers, sometimes brutally so. Naturally, this tends to make me feel better about my own exquisitely inefficient process.
Occasionally, however, I’ll run across a writer who is the opposite, one of those cheerfully industrious and effortlessly prolific souls like the British novelist Anthony Trollope, who knocked out 3,000 words every morning before heading to his day job at the Post Office—and who, if he completed one novel during his daily three hours, would get out a fresh sheet of paper and immediately begin the next one.
Another example of this rare and rather infuriating breed—also British and also named Anthony—came to my attention last week: Anthony Burgess, the author of 33 novels, though nowadays he is known for just one of them, 1962’s A Clockwork Orange. In a 1988 interview, Burgess explained how he wrote so much: