Q: You’ve written a half-dozen collections of poetry, 22 novels, several volumes of critical writing, a memoir and short stories. Are you a fast writer? Or do you work long hours?
A: Neither. I’m a slow writer who works rather short hours.
I was reading last night about Hawthorne working all day when he was doing “The Scarlet Letter.” Other writers mention 10-hour days. And you read of fantastic word rates that writers achieve — 5,000 words a day.
When I set out, I decided that about 1,000 words a day would be a good quota. … My working day generally goes from about 9 to 1, when I get hungry.
Maintaining this modest demand on myself has produced, as you say, a fair number of books.
The complete interview with the Charlotte Observer, in which he talks about the magic of writing, and addresses writing self doubt, is here.
Could Updike do NaNoWriMo? Curious question. (Maybe Joyce Carol Oates would embrace it). Another writer I have met, Aimee Bender, writes a short amount of hours each day: an hour and a half each morning, and that’s it. She makes herself stop after that hour and a half. Anything beyond that, she said, and the writing doesn’t feel fresh (or something to that effect–my apologies, I’m paraphrasing a memory from years ago).