What Writing a Book Is Like

If you’re a Jack Kerouac On the Road fan, you might be interested in Jay Atkinson’s Paradise Road, a travel memoir in which the author re-creates Kerouac’s  on-the-road journey.  Not only will you learn a lot about Kerouac and America, there’s some nice bits about writing.  I especially liked Atkinson’s description of writing a book:

When someone asks me what it’s like to write a book, I tell the inquisitor to imagine a block of ice as large as the room we’re sitting in.  Lodged at the center of the ice block is a rare and precious diamond.  The writer is then handed a toothpick and told to extract the small glittering gem from the ice.  At first glance, the task seems hopeless.  Certainly, if the writer attacks the block of ice in a frenzy, the toothpick will shatter, leaving a small, damp stub between the thumb and forefinger.  Patience is the key, for if the writer returns to the task every day, painstakingly scratching at the block with the point of the toothpick, worrying the same spot for as long as he can stand it, eventually a tiny fissure will appear in the ice.  Finally, acted on by time, heat, and energy, great segments of the block will crumble and fall away until, in the end, the diamond of his story has been revealed.

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