Marilynne Robinson on Writing and Discipline

INTERVIEWER

Do you keep to a schedule?

ROBINSON

I really am incapable of discipline. I write when something makes a strong claim on me. When I don’t feel like writing, I absolutely don’t feel like writing. I tried that work ethic thing a couple of times—I can’t say I exhausted its possibilities—but if there’s not something on my mind that I really want to write about, I tend to write something that I hate. And that depresses me. I don’t want to look at it. I don’t want to live through the time it takes for it to go up the chimney. Maybe it’s a question of discipline, maybe temperament, who knows? I wish I could have made myself do more. I wouldn’t mind having written fifteen books.

INTERVIEWER

Even if many of them were mediocre?

ROBINSON

Well, no.

-From novelist Marilynne Robinson’s 2008 Paris Review conversation with Sarah Fay.

Read the interview