If there’s one thing I’ve learned in grad school, it’s that writers all have weird ways of getting themselves to write.
But the weirdest way? That honor may belong to novelist Daniel Torday. In a story he shared with LitHub, Torday explains the merits of zooming in so close to your work that you only see one or two words at a time. His way of writing is by way of the superzoom and it is weird and fantastic and claustrophobic and ecstatic.
Torday turns up the volume on his work by setting his font size to 72 and putting the view to 500% of the full page view. The result leaves a word or two in view, making writing a more momentary and non-reflective act. So why does he do this? Here.
Now look, I get it. This sounds nutso. I’ll confess that I often can only last a month or so before I have to go back, put my file back to 12-point font (Baskerville, obvi) and 150 percent view. But while I’m working, this process somehow games a whole bunch of the hardest aspects of writing a novel: it gets me to stop tinkering. It keeps me from worrying about the quality of what’s come before (I can’t even see what’s come before!) and allows me just to forge ahead. Forging ahead means accruing words. And perhaps the only definition we can hold the novel to is that it is a drastic, almost unnatural, accrual of words.
This is super interesting since I know many, many, many a writer who cannot get past a page because they are so seduced by touching and retouching their writing. It’s nice to make things perfect! Unfortunately, they will never be perfect. You just have to move ahead, let that control go, and work on your work.
This is what Torday is getting at. By hyperfocusing on what he’s writing, looking at words at a time, he bars himself from indulging in navel-gazing novel revisions before a novel is even written. It’s pretty genius and could work for you, if you feel like you’re getting stuck in the self-reflexive rut.
Will I do this? Fuck no. This is all sorts of crazy. I do admire the crazy though – and think that writers (and artists in general) gotta get a bit crazy if they’re going to get anything done.