Larry McMurtry’s Words of Wisdom

Back in 1971, I took a creative writing course from Larry McMurtry.  It wasn’t a great course, by any means.  He split time between reading from his new manuscript in final revision–All My Friends McMurtryAllMyFriends1Are Going to be Strangers–and telling us of the latest saga in acting as an adviser to the filming of his earlier novel, The Last Picture Show.  This was back before he published the Lonesome Dove series, which I consider to be his greatest accomplishment.  Each week we turned in something we’d written, and they came back with a red check and occasionally a cryptic comment.  Worse, I fancied myself a poet in those day.

But it was a great experience, even if it wasn’t a great course.

Larry McMurtryLarry McMurtry circa 1971

Many years later, I read a touching bit of wisdom by Larry McMurtry.  I believe it was in the preface to Buffalo Girls, but I could be very wrong on that.  I can’t find it to quote it, so I’ll have to describe it from memory.  It went something like: every writer spends an inordinate amount of time reading the words of a single author: himself.  After awhile, you get where you don’t want to read another word that author has written.

Scary, in a way.  But at least something to be cautious of.  Burnout on yourself.

I haven’t been at this trade nearly as long as McMurtry has, and if I ever write a book as great as Lonesome Dove, I’ll post it here so you’ll be the first to know.  But the question still hangs out there: how do you keep from burning out on your own writing?  Can you still have moments where you impress yourself, even after years of reading and rereading your own words?

I mention this today because I’m in the final edit of Avalon, S.C., preparing it to send it off to the proofreader and then on to the publisher.  I’ve read those words a lot.  Between the various drafts, comments back from SusanH and others, chapters read at my writing groups, and Total Rereads (that’s where I start from the beginning and read the entire book cover to cover over the course of a few days), I’ve probably read it 6-8 times within the last year.

It’s not that good.

So I’m finishing up the last Total Reread (before it comes back from an editor with their comments).  And you know what?  There are moments that still delight me, no matter how many times I’ve read them.  It is good, dummy.

That absolutely qualifies as a small victory.  Tonight when I get home from choir rehearsal, I think I’ll open a bottle of champagne and celebrate like Sabrina would.



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