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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

Eudora Welty – a sense of exposure

At the time of writing, I don’t write for my friends or myself, either; I write for it, for the pleasure of it. I believe if I stopped to wonder what So-and-so would think, or what I’d feel like if this were read by a stranger, I would be paralyzed. I care what my friends think, very deeply—and it’s only after they’ve read the finished thing that I really can rest, deep down. But in the writing, I have to just keep going straight through with only the thing in mind and what it dictates.

It’s so much an inward thing that reading the proofs later can be a real shock. When I received them for my first book — no, I guess it was for Delta Wedding — I thought, I didn’t write this. It was a page of dialogue—I might as well have never seen it before. I wrote to my editor, John Woodburn, and told him something had happened to that page in the typesetting. He was kind, not even surprised — maybe this happens to all writers. He called me up and read me from the manuscript — word for word what the proofs said. Proofs don’t shock me any longer, yet there’s still a strange moment with every book when I move from the position of writer to the position of reader, and I suddenly see my words with the eyes of the cold public. It gives me a terrible sense of exposure, as if Id gotten sunburned.

Extracted from an interviewed by Linda Kuehl in The Paris Review.

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