But sometimes I cannot write. Like the times I’m on vacation, or I’m down with a bad cold. I also can’t write when I’m bone dry and need to refresh myself, not only with a nice trip, but with a long stretch of reading.
As Dr. Samuel Johnson, he of dictionary fame, nicely put it, “The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write: a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
Of course there’s a difference between writing books with footnotes, actual or implied, and writing fiction. The good doctor must have been thinking of the former when he told Mr. James Boswell, his human voice recorder and toady, that the greatest part of a writer’s time is spent checking out the competition. I’ve written five novels without having to read two and a half libraries. One does this, I think, not by reading books, but by reading people.
The novels are published by Komos Books. For those new to my literary production, or even to my existence, I’ll just say that I’ve spent something like twenty-five years writing them. When I started out on this road to literary ignominy, I sent stories from what has become Christian Bride, Muslim Mosque to The New Yorker. They appreciated them and asked to see more. And more. And more. Then they forgot about me. I sent the whole manuscript to the top-flight publisher Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. It survived multiple readings, but when it came time to do business, they chickened out. Ditto with other publishers, as well as agents, some of whom have acted in behalf of well-known literary lights, including Frank McCourt. So I settled on Komos Books. Which, incidentally, I run.
Even now, however, I can’t not write. Put differently, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. Or, put even more differently and more honestly, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do and can still do well.
About my long dry spell on the writing front. It’s not that I’ve had writer’s block—I’ve never been prey to that ailment; put me in front of a keyboard and I’ve always been able to peck out a decent sentence, even the occasional fine paragraph. It’s that I’m working on a long-term project dedicated to wrapping up my opinions on religion. This requires lots of reading, filling in the gaps in my store of knowledge, getting up-to-date on such subjects as early Christianity, theory of religion, and evolutionary theory.