john o’brien

This seems calming, and not calming

From the archives at Dalkey Archive, John O’Brien interviews Coleman Dowell, who eventually threw himself out of the window of his 15th floor apartment:

COLEMAN DOWELL: There are writers who can tell you precisely what they do, but I am not one of them. There was a lecture E. M. Forster delivered called “Inspiration” which concerns the mind turning turtle. I put a piece of paper in the typewriter and, if I’m colemandowellgoing to write well, the mind turns turtle. Out comes the person at the typewriter, the writer, whom I do not carry away from the typewriter. I talk about writing with other writers in this sort of desultory manner but I’m not really eager to do it. So there is that thing that belongs to the typewriter and the piece of paper. This turning turtle occurs, but as Forster says in his lecture, this one can also produce gibberish. This element of mystery is there for me. I’m not very articulate about writing, as you can see. If I could sit here and tell you everything that happens and why I do it—aside from a compulsion and an absolute love for writing, I don’t think I’d write. I don’t think I’d do it all because it’s a lonesome thing. When I start a new book I feel as though I’m going into a cave that I can’t come out of until the book is finished. I have a routine of getting to bed early and then getting up early so that I’m at the typewriter by no later than seven. It’s very lonesome, and nobody is really willing to share while you’re going along and writing. dowellcolemanI can tell you why anything in my books is there and why something happened, but aside from that, I probably can talk about somebody else’s writing better than I can my own. When a work is finished, I can talk with you about it, every section and every word, but that is when it’s finished. At the time I am writing, I can’t talk because the process is not known to me. For me, the writing is enough. I don’t need to discuss it. When I write, I want to look at something as closely as I can. I have old notes stuck in my journal. One of them is very old now, it’s from about 1968, and it says, “Examine the essence of shunning.” That interested me at the time, and some day I might write about it. But that’s the way it comes about; I said that I want to look at that as closely as I can.

Excerpts / 18 Comments
October 5th, 2009 / 8:48 pm