But the writing itself hasn’t gotten any easier?


No, it hasn’t. Where getting older and having experience kicks in is after you have a first draft. Then a big change goes on in me. I’m much more relaxed, instead of feeling what Joan Didion calls “low dread”—a perfect phrase. Didion talks about being in her living room, and looking at the door to her study—just looking at that door gives her low dread. That’s there every single day, in the day of a writer.

My writing methods changed in a different way. I used to write and write. I didn’t want to stop because I had broken through all these dreads. I would go on into the night, maybe even to three a.m. But what I gradually discerned was that it was quite inefficient, because the next time I’d be able to do some writing would be two and a half days later or something. At the end of the month, you’d have more done if you quit at seven. So I quit at seven. If I am in the middle of a sentence, and I’m all excited and it’s really going well, at seven o’clock I get up and go home.

Paris Review – The Art of Nonfiction No. 3, John McPhee


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