Did you know that Norman Mailer got a monthly stipend while he worked on his second novel? AND it took him eleven years??
A monthly stipend!
For eleven years!
They sure don't do that anymore, leastways, not that I've heard.
Someone had a bit of a survey on first-book advances over the last thirty years. They haven't much gone up.
And Angie got me to thinking: things were different, writing-wise.
Like, I've read of of writers who would dictate their story. What a different process that must be! I must hit the backspace key 10 - 40 times per line I write.
I can not, and I mean, I cannot say a sentence coherently. I'm serious. My students somehow understand and put the words I spit out into coherent form. I honestly don't understand how they understand what I speak. Sometimes I can just gesture to the piano, play something, make a few more gestures and grunts, throw in a few ums, move their arm around a little, and they actually know what I mean.
And then there are the typewriter writers, who'd write a page, and that's it. If you make a mistake, you have to type the whole damn page again. And backspacing on a typewriter ... well, that's like a five-minute task! (Remember the correcting ribbon, fluid, tape, and all that other stuff?)
Then there were the longhand writers, who had others type up their stories for them. I can't even imagine all the
strike-throughs and arrows and scribbles! When I write on paper, I'm suddenly gripped by the need that Every. Letter. Must. Look. Pretty.
I don't know what my words are, but the letters look neat. Fountain pen, pretty ink, everything. I love to write with a fountain pen. I just can't write with a fountain pen. It's more like drawing. Story doesn't happen.
And just think how much their hands must have hurt at the end of the day, from all that writing! My longhand writing muscles are so out shape that if I write even a couple sentences, my hand cramps up!
I read about the writers in the old days, and I think of them a bit like cowboys. Despite the better advances and monthly stipends, writing was a lot rougher in the old days. Harder work, I imagine.
I mean, they really walked four miles a day to school, through snow, with no shoes.
Me? I love the feel of keys under my fingers. It's a bit of an addiction, really. At least, half of my joy of writing, is the feel of the keys under my fingers, the letters blipping up across the screen.
And you should see my right hand ring finger on the backspace key. Man, can it fly!!! (Yes, I know I'm supposed to use my pinky. But I don't.)
Life without cut and paste? Can you imagine?
I seriously question if I would have, could have, been a writer in the old days. What do you think?