Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Anthony Trollope on productivity

with 4 comments

There was no day on which it was my positive duty to write for the publishers, as it was my duty to write reports for the Post Office. I was free to be idle if I pleased. But as I had made up my mind to undertake this second profession, I found it to be expedient to bind myself by certain self-imposed laws. When I have commenced a new book, I have always prepared a diary, divided into weeks, and carried it on for the period which I have allowed myself for the completion of the work. In this I have entered, day by day, the number of pages I have written, so that if at any time I have slipped into idleness for a day or two, the record of that idleness has been there, staring me in the face, and demanding of me increased labour, so that the deficiency might be supplied. According to the circumstances of the time,—whether my other business might be then heavy or light, or whether the book which I was writing was or was not wanted with speed,—I have allotted myself so many pages a week. The average number has been about 40. It has been placed as low as 20, and has risen to 112. And as a page is an ambiguous term, my page has been made to contain 250 words; and as words, if not watched, will have a tendency to straggle, I have had every word counted as I went. In the bargains I have made with publishers I have,—not, of course, with their knowledge, but in my own mind,—undertaken always to supply them with so many words, and I have never put a book out of hand short of the number by a single word. I may also say that the excess has been very small. I have prided myself on completing my work exactly within the proposed dimensions. But I have prided myself especially in completing it within the proposed time,—and I have always done so. There has ever been the record before me, and a week passed with an insufficient number of pages has been a blister to my eye, and a month so disgraced would have been a sorrow to my heart.

Anthony Trollope, An Autobiography

Written by nevalalee

May 1, 2011 at 10:15 am

Posted in Books, Writing

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4 Responses

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  1. I don’t care how vapid this sounds: I love Trollope because reading him is like watching some kind of 1880s version of Thirtysomething meets Upstairs Downstairs, with no commercials!


    May 2, 2011 at 1:48 pm

  2. I actually haven’t read a lot of Trollope, although I’ve been meaning to check out more of his stuff for a long time. Any recommendations on where to start?


    May 2, 2011 at 8:59 pm

  3. It’s a brick of a volume, but I cackled all the way through “Can You Forgive Her.” Definitely meant to be read in episodes as this is how it was published.


    May 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm

  4. That’s exactly the one I’ve been meaning to read—if only because it inspired one of my favorite songs by the Pet Shop Boys.


    May 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm

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