Tuesday, July 30, 2013

When it's really hard to write....

.....try writing any of these great works!! Mental floss posted an article today about 10 pieces that were really hard to write. They really are quite a fascinating study in the difficulties and/or challenges that some writers face. Here they are with comments.

1. Gadsby by Ernest Vincent Wright. This author created a challenge for himself - To write a novel without the use of the letter "e." To make sure that he did this, he tied the key of his typewriter down. I wonder how he signed it. His name has 3 "e's."

2. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. After a tragic stroke, the author, Jean-Dominique Bauby, was left completely paralyzed except for his left eyelid. He was determined to write and so he memorized, at night, the passage that was to be written the next day. The transcriber would recite the alphabet Bauby would wink when the correct letter was said. The book went on to become a bestseller in Europe and had a movie made of it in 2007. It's about life being paralyzed.

3. Before his death in 2007, Indian spiritual master Sri Chinmoy wrote at least 1,000 books, 20,000 songs, and 115,000 poems. Some he penned in his mother tongue, Bengali, and some in his second language, English. His poems won numerous awards and inspired countless writers and musicians. And while Sri Chinmoy was clearly a fast writer, he was never as quick as on November 1, 1975, when he wrote Transcendence-Perfection, a collection of 843 poems—all written in 24 hours.

Pant, pant. I just can't keep up. Can you?

4. OK this isn't a novel, it's a sonnet and thereby qualifies as a work of literature. The title of the sonnet is - Washington Crossing the Delaware and every line of the poem is an anagram of this title. Maybe not great poetry but pretty good if you have done a lot of anagrams. David Shulman - you are one great scrambler of letters. Now what can you do with Cherry Tree?

5. Ernest Hemingway's captivating tale in 6 words. This was a challenge or rather a bet. That an author could write a captivating story in 6 words. His was "For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn." Think of the story line, the emotion, the comment on the human condition and the characters.  This is why Hemmingway rocks. I never tire of "Old Man and The Sea."

Booties always tell a story

6. Did you read by flashlight, under the covers at night? Well some wrote, maybe also under the covers at night. One Daisy Ashford, at the age of 9 years wrote a novella.

Daisy Ashford’s novella about Victorian society is considered something of a classic. First published in 1919, the work is still in print and has been turned into a movie. But if that doesn’t sound remarkable, consider that Ashford was only 9 years old when she wrote it.
To preserve the authenticity of the story, publishers decided to leave in Ashford’s plentiful grammar mistakes and spelling errors (the title, for example). They also added a foreword by Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie to assure readers that this was no hoax. Barrie reminded people that the novel was indeed written by a little girl, who was “hauled off to bed every evening at six.”
7. Futility - not the poem by Wilfred Owen, but an equally eerie novel about the sinking of a ship named Titan, 14 years before the Titanic set sail. Please read the article. There is more!!

8. Anguish Languish - more about scrambled words etc.

Sinker sucker socks pants, apocryphal awry. If those words don’t make sense together, try saying them out loud: “Sing a song of sixpence, a pocketful of rye.” Now imagine a whole book written like this, and you’ve got Howard L. Chace’s 1940 collection of nursery rhymes and fairy tales, Anguish Languish. The work contains classics such as Marry Hatter Ladle Limb and Ladle Rat Rotten Hut, which begins with the immortal line, “Wants pawn term, dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage.” Although Anguish Languish is playful, there was also a serious side to it. As a French professor, Chace used the stories to illustrate that, in spoken English, intonation is almost as important to the meaning as the words themselves.

9. James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake - is considered one of the most impenetrable works of English Literature ever written. However there is a movie, I know I have seen it - also a little bizarre!!

10. The President's Mystery Story by Franklin Roosevelt et al. The mystery was finally solved in 1967 by Perry Mason - a must read!!

My favourite is #5 and I challenge any reader to create a story in 6 words. Here's my attempt -

Gone for milk. Don't wait up. For all those people who have left for milk and never returned - they have amazing stories to tell.

Have an awesome day!!


  1. Thanks for this! I always find myself excuses not to write. Hmmm...As for my story in six works, how about 'Climbing the Himalaya. See you soon'

  2. Every one of these is interesting. Especially inspired by the winking, paralyzed writer and the little girl. Off to google her now....

  3. These are amazing authors. I am humbled. My personal favorite was the 9 year old writing under covers. That was so cool. Thank you.

  4. I cannot even imagine how painfully slow it must have been for the paralyzed author to complete the story. These are some fascinating facts - I love that Mental Floss!