andré gide on writing: “when i don’t write is when i have the most to write.”

 
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18 December, 1905

When I don’t write is when I have the most to write. If I have a moment’s relaxation, I use it to correct proofs, to write letters. I am barely sufficient unto my life, It is not so much the urgency of my occupations as their number and diversity; my mind is completely dislocated by them. My best time in Paris is when I am supposed not to be there. If I cease to write in this notebook for more than three days, it becomes painful for me to go back to it, and the moment I do not pay attention to details, I no longer enjoy noting anything down. Let us force ourselves.

(Raymond Bonheur, whom I saw yesterday, cannot conceive of forcing oneself. On the other hand it’s my watchword. I want all my branches to be arched, like those the clever gardener torments to urge them to fruit.)

What especially shocked Paul Claudel when, after several years in the Orient, he returned to modern civilization was the waste. "What!" he exclaimed, "when St. Francis of Assisi found in the mud of a path a bit of crumpled parchment, he picked it up in his hand, smoothed it out, because he had seen writing on it—writing, that sacred thing—and look at us, what we do with it today! It really pains me to think of that enormous mass of paper which is covered with printing for one day and then thrown into the garbage-
pail. . . . We have not only no more respect for the writing of others, but not even for our own. . . ."

Waste, yes, that is also what spoils for me an evening like yesterday’s. Waste of time, of money, of strength—and for what a petty pleasure!

André Gide, Journals 1905, p. 164

 

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