Thursday, September 18, 2008

Happiness, Part V

'There ought to be behind the door of every happy, contented man some one standing with a hammer continually reminding him with a tap that there are unhappy people; that however happy he may be, life will show him her laws sooner or later, trouble will come for him—disease, poverty, losses, and no one will see or hear, just as now he neither sees nor hears others.'
--Anton Chekhov. You can review earlier ruminations on this topic here. And just for the sheer bloody hell of it, check out The Happiness Project's 8 tips for making yourself happier in the next hour. Special thanks to my omniverous pal Jeff Hess for pointing me toward that interesting tidbit. You can check out earlier mentions of JH here. But do also check out his blog as well. As for the immortal Chekhov--who has been dead for 104 years, but whose reputation rightly looms larger each year--you can learn anything you'd care to know about him at Paul Jones' Ibiblio here, and sample from a vast array of his translated work here. He famously observed that "if there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it must fire in the last," which has come to be seen as a pithy bromide about removing all extraneous details from a piece of writing. But I've always thought this lesser-known observation was perhaps his most memorable: "A writer is not a confectioner, a cosmetic dealer, or an entertainer. He is a man who has signed a contract with his conscience and his sense of duty."


At 5:54 AM, Blogger Geoff Schutt said...

Indeed, Chekhov is correct about the sense of duty, and so we wake up at 3 a.m. to get the words down -- because of need, because words are the drug to the conscience, and the words do, in fact, meet the terms of the contract.

"This Side of Paradise," checking in.
-- Geoff, The Biographer, and Eleanor, The Subject

At 6:08 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Geoff, how pleasant to see this dispatch from a fellow sometimes-up-before-dawn guy. Funny that you should mention 3 a.m., for a couple reasons. Well, actually three (appropriately). For one, it echoes the silly 3 a.m. crisis phone call theme from Hillary's campaign. More importantly, only yesterday I came across a stunning line from a writer whose name I can't at the moment recall: The writing that gets you up at 3 a.m. never has to be rewritten. Finally, there's a too little-known but pretty good writerly pub called 3am magazine!

At 6:16 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Good god, this is funny, ridiculous and ironic at the same time. It just dawned on me: the actual full quote in question--"You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write--by one Saul Bellow, will indeed be quite familiar to you, Geoff, since I happened to read it yesterday on your blog!

At 3:18 PM, Blogger Geoff Schutt said...

Hello John,

There's something about how the mind words in those early morning hours (especially after some dreamy, clear-the-head sleep, rather than simply "staying up" until 3 a.m. or whatever) .... Maybe it's that there are no distractions other than ones we manufacture ourselves. Beyond this, I think it's just the brain chemicals -- for some people, creative times might be early evening, or early afternoon. For me, and more than a few other writers it seems, the best moments are those just before dawn, or with a few hours to spare.

Now -- as far as that political phone call line (3 a.m.), I don't EVEN want to think about one of our leaders trying to be "creative" when faced with a decision that most likely requires logic instead of the "what would happen if I wrote the characters this way ...."
Cheers! Geoff

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Geoff Schutt said...

a p.s., which shows me clearly as an "early morning person," because now I need to revise, or maybe not ....

In my first sentence (posting above), I use "words" instead of "works." Though, I must say, it reads very interesting this way!

-- Cheers Redux, Geoff

At 3:26 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Very thorough of you to correct yourself, even for this tiny item in the comments of a blog. I'm similarly momentarily horrified when I've accidentally left a small error in a comment (the preview button helps guard against that, but like everything else, it isn't foolproof as long as we error-prone humans are operating it).

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