Because it is high time I return The Habit of Being to the Oratory’s library, I am removing all the little markers that still linger between the pages. So you are in for another dose of wisdom from Flannery today.
I’m a full believer in writing habits, pedestrian as it all may sound. You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away. […] Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place. This doesn’t mean I produce much out of the two hours. Sometimes I work for months and have to throw everything away, but I don’t think any of that was time wasted. Something goes on that makes it easier when it does come well. And the fact is if you don’t sit there every day, the day it would come well, you won’t be sitting there.
She is writing to a teacher, and goes on to say that your “set time” needs to come when you have a fresh mind, before all your creative energy has gone to your students.
And this is why I imagine I won’t be writing much this week while I grade the second batch of nineteen essays. This depresses me, but it’s also encouraging to know now that I won’t get any writing done, because my priorities must be elsewhere.
And now the book returns to its shelf in the Oratory. I shall miss it, this specific, material, concrete book. I fully intend to buy a copy of my own someday, but I feel that this is the copy I should own: the one I have fallen asleep with and cried over and stuck full of little bits of paper, now all gone.
Bonus quote! On the use of fiction for “propaganda”:
The novel is an art form and when you use it for anything other than art, you pervert it. […] art is wholly concerned with the good of that which is made; it has no utilitarian end. If you do manage to use it successfully for social, religious, or other purposes, it is because you make it art first.