An acquaintance of mine recently congratulated me on my new book, Trompe l’Oeil, my third in five years and sighed that she wished her current biography, which she’s been working on for five years, didn’t require so much research. Her implication was that a fiction writer can knock out a novel because it doesn’t require background study. I didn’t correct her misconception, nor did I tell her that I’ve recently finished with a play I’ve been working on since the 1980s. I’ll let her think I am prolific and I wish I were.
Prolific is a word to be applied to P. G. Wodehouse, whose letters have just been published (P.G. Wodehouse: A life in Letters edited by Sophie Ratcliffe.) In her review for Town&Country, Georgina Schaeffer reminds us that before he died at the age of 93, Wodehouse had written 96 books, collaborated on 16 plays, and composed parts of the books and/or lyrics for 18 musicals. (“Yours Ever,” by Georgina Schaffer, Town&Country, 2/12 pg. 22) That he had time to write letters, stamp and mail them besides is mindboggling. I shudder to think how much communication he would have accomplished if he’d had email.
Of course the pace of one’s writing means little. Margaret Mitchell wrote only one book over a number of years, Gone with the Wind, but it was enough to earn her a place among the pantheon of American writers. Harper Lee, too, wrote a single novel, To Kill a Mockingbird and it won her the Pulitzer Prize.
Statistics about how fast one produces pieces don’t matter in my opinion. Was Wodehouse a better or worse writer because he churned out volumes while Mitchell and Lee produced a single volume each? As my mother used to say, always put quality above quantity. Luckily, Wodehouse who was able achieve both.
(Courtesy of www.oq160.com)