December 30, 2010


Stephen Fry on Douglas Adams's writing procedure:

Douglas's writing routine was painful in the extreme. Sue Freestone, his publisher at Heinemann, would come round and beg, often almost with tears welling in her eyes, for pages from his printer. Douglas would hurl himself downstairs to the coffee machine, hurl himself back up again, thump to his desk and sit in front of the computer. After an hour or so twiddling with the screensaver, the wallpaper, the title of the file, the placement on the desktop of the folder the file was stored in, the formatting, the font, the size, the colour, the margins and the stylesheets, he might type a sentence. He would look at it, change it to italics, swap the word order around, get up, stare at it some more. Hum, curse, growl and groan and then delete it. He would try another sentence. He would look at this one and now perhaps give a little puff of pleasure. He would stand up, stride across the room and hurl himself down to the kitchen, where Sue and I would be gossiping and smoking around the table, and make himself another incredibly strong coffee.

'Dare I ask?' Sue would say.

'Going well. I have the first sentence!'

'Oh.' It would be perhaps July with the new novel already overdue the previous September. One sentence written so far. Sue would smile tightly. 'Well, that's a start at least ...'

Douglas would nod enthusiastically and fling himself back up the stairs, coffee dripping in his wake. We would hear the feet thump across the floor above our heads and then an agonized cry of 'No! Hopeless!' would tell us that the proud first sentence was not, after all, up to snuff, and a banging on the keyboard would register its angry deletion.

An author's day is tough enough, but the writing life of Douglas Adams was excruciating in a manner quite unlike anyone else's I have ever known.

-- from The Fry Chronicles, which is kind of hard to get over here, evidently.

Posted by Dr. Frank at December 30, 2010 05:54 PM | TrackBack