Is Productivity a Writer’s True Currency?
Walter Mosley is the author of more than 34 critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring the character Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 21 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation, among other publications. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He became a writer in his thirties, after a decade-long career as a computer programmer. He lives in New York City.
Question: Is productivity the true currency of a writer?
Walter Mosley: You know, it’s funny. One wouldn’t want to say that what makes a good writer is the number of books that the writer wrote because you could write a whole number of bad books. Books that don’t work, mediocre books, or you know, there’s a whole bunch of people in the pulp tradition who have done that. They just wrote... and actually they didn’t write a whole bunch of books, they just wrote one book many times.
But even if she wrote a different book every time, if they’re not good books, then you can’t say this is a good writer because he or she wrote a whole lot of books. On the other hand, when you go to another form, like for instance painting, you talk about painters and you talk about painters painting masterpieces. There is no painter who painted only one painting and that was a masterpiece. You have to do a whole bunch of paintings to get to the place of mastering your craft. And so the idea of being productive, the idea of producing many books is going to lead you toward becoming a better and... can lead towards you becoming a better and better writer.
So, no, purely the idea of writing a lot of books doesn’t make you a great writer, but it might be that the process of doing a lot of writing will make you a much better writer.
Recorded November 10, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler
"There is no painter who painted only one painting and that was a masterpiece," says Mosley. But that doesn’t mean you can write a lot of bad books and still be a good writer.