Joseph Conrad on a truly awful case of writer’s block
“I sit down for eight hours every day—and the sitting down is all.”
Welcome to the 31st issue of Subtle Maneuvers, which was written before the distressing news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death at 87 last Friday. For those rightfully seething over the coming political battle to determine her replacement, may I recommend last week’s issue on Rei Kawakubo and the “energy of anger.”
Joseph Conrad (1857–1924)
This year has been a difficult one for a lot of obvious reasons. An added source of misery for me these last several months has been my inability to write a sample chapter for a new nonfiction book proposal that I’ve been putting together. No matter how I tried to approach this chapter, I just couldn’t seem to get started. And then once I did get started, I just couldn’t seem to make it work. It was awful.
Throughout this time, not surprisingly, I’ve been keenly interested in reading about other writers’ blocked periods. One of the best descriptions that I’ve run across is from a letter that Joseph Conrad wrote on March 29, 1898. Here, the 40-year-old author is apologizing to his editor for failing to deliver the promised next installment of his serialized novel The Rescue: