Mark Twain on Writing
In Milton Meltzer's Mark Twain Himself (Bonanza Books, New York, 1960, pages 150-152) we find the following excerpts from Twain about writing.

. . . "As long as a book would write itself I was a faithful and interested amanuensis and my industry did not flag, but the minute that the book tried to shift to my head the labor of contriving its situations, inventing its adventures and conducting its conversations, I put it away and dropped it out of my mind."

. . . "It was by accident that I found out that a book is pretty sure to get tired along about the middle and refuse to go on with its work until its powers and its interest should have been refreshed by a rest and its depleted stock of raw materials reinforced by lapse of time. It was when I had reached the middle of Tom Sawyer that I made this invaluable find. At page 400 of my manuscript the story made a sudden and determined halt and refused to proceed another step. Day after day it still refused. I was disappointed, distressed and immeasurably astonished, for I knew quite well that the tale was not finished and I could not understand why I was not able to go on with it. The reason was very simple -- my tank had run dry; it was empty; the stock of materials in it was exhausted; the story could not go on without materials; it could not be wrought out of nothing.
. . . "When the manuscript had lain in a pigeon hole two years I took it out one day and read the last chapter that I had written. It was then that I made the great discovery that when the tank runs dry you've only to leave it alone and it will fill up again in time, while you are asleep -- also while you are at work on other things and are quite unaware that this unconscious and profitable cerebration is going on."

. . . "It is my habit to keep four or five books in process or erection all the time and every summer add a few courses of bricks to two or three of them, but I cannot forecast which of the two or three it is going to be. It takes seven years to complete a book by this method but still it is a good method: gives the public a rest.
. . . "I have been accused of rushing into print prematurely, moved thereto by greediness for money, but in truth I have never done that. Do you care for trifles of information? Well, then, Tom Sawyer and The Prince and The Pauper were each on the stocks two or three years and Old Times on the Mississippi eight.
. . . "One of my unfinished books has been on the stocks sixteen years, another seventeen. This latter book could have been finished in a day, at any time during the past five years. But as in the first of these two narratives all the action takes place in Noah's ark, and as in the other the action takes place in heaven, there seemed to be no hurry and so I have not hurried. Tales of stirring adventure in those localities do not need to be rushed to publication lest they get stale by waiting.
. . . "In twenty-one years, with all my time at my free disposal, I have written and completed only eleven books, whereas with half the labor that a journalist does I could have written sixty in that time.
. . . "I do not greatly mind being accused of a proclivity for rushing into print but at the same time I don't believe that the charge is really well founded. Suppose I did write eleven books, have you nothing to be grateful for? Go to ----- remember the forty-nine which I didn't write."

Meltzer . . Meltzer tells us that twenty-two years after writing the above lines (in a letter he never mailed), Twain added these notes:

. . . "I still have the habit of keeping unfinished books lying around years and years, waiting. I have four or five novels on hand at present in a half-finished condition and it is more than three years since I have looked at any of them. I have no intention of finishing them. I could complete all of them in less than a year, if the impulse should come powerfully upon me.
. . . "Long, long ago money-necessity furnished that impulse once, (Following the Equator), but mere desire for money has never furnished it so far as I remember. Not even money-necessity was able to overcome me on a couple of occasions when perhaps I ought to have allowed it to succeed.
. . . "While I was bankrupt and in debt two offers were made me for weekly literary contributions to continue during a year and they would have made a debtless man of me, but I declined them, with my wife's full approval, for I had no instance where a man had pumped himself out once a week and failed to run 'emptyings' before the year was finished."

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