Writing is hard. That’s what singer/songwriter Gillian Welch and writer Lydia Peelle are talking about in this excerpt from a conversation between the two printed in BOMB. Peelle’s latest book is a collection of short stories called Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing. Welch’s last record was Soul Journey, released way back in 2003. Here’s what the pair had to say to each other about writing:
Lydia Peelle: Sometimes it’s like I’m watching myself sitting there at the desk, and saying, Wait a minute. Stop right there. I know what you’re about to do, and it won’t work, so don’t even try it. What I learned is that I am an extremely inefficient writer.
Gillian Welch: It sounds like we have a similar process.
LP: Just reams of wasted paper. I feel like I have to know the whole story, as if someone has told it to me, before I actually write it … For a while I couldn’t write a story unless I knew whether or not each person in the story believed in God. Then there’s, of course, rewriting the same paragraph over and over, because I’m afraid to go on, or I don’t know where to go next … Someone told me recently that you shouldn’t sit down to write without knowing what you’re going to write about. I thought, Hang on, that’s like three-fourths of my process right there, sitting there staring at the desk!
GW: Me too, and then I don’t start writing until I’m totally miserable.
LP: Writing is so painful. There are so many things I’d rather do than write. I think I’d rather do anything than write.
GW: Jerry Garcia said, “I’d rather pitch cards into a hat all day than write a song.”
LP: Flannery O’Connor said it was like trying to eat a horse blanket. The thing is—you’ve got to do it. You’ve got to just get something down. If I’ve done that, then I know I can go on with the rest of my day and do all the other things I do. Writing that one page—or even that one paragraph or sentence—is the one sacred part of the day.