I must confess that before linking to this piece on prolific authors, I took great pleasure in emailing the paragraph about McCall Smith’s working habits to the six author friends I know who’re suffering from writer’s block. Even as I type, my inbox is filling up with anguished cries from tormented souls. Mwahahahahaha.
Andre Mayer writes: “We have this enduring mental image of the author at work. He or she is sequestered in their den, hunkered in front of a typewriter. (The computer has been a tremendous boon to writers, but there’s just no romance in the phrase “word processor.”) The cigarette on their lips has smouldered to the filter, they’re nursing their sixth cup of coffee and struggling to craft a sentence that won’t cause them to throw up their hands in futility and jettison the page to the wastepaper basket. Such is the life of an artist: intense, grueling and without exception, an ordeal.
And then along comes a chap like Alexander McCall Smith, who seems to regard book writing not as some rarefied art but as a form of daily exercise, like sit-ups or squats. Where most authors sweat to produce 1,000 words a day without self-mutilation, McCall Smith has been known to bang out three times that in a single sitting. He’s a living rebuke of the notion that novel-writing is the least bit arduous.”