I am re-reading Ian Fleming’s ‘Goldfinger’, having just previously finished ‘Live and Let Die’ and before that my favorite, ‘Casino Royale’; which in my opinion, is Fleming’s best work.

And a couple of things occurred to me. First, just how influenced Fleming was by Hemingway. That probably isn’t a particular insightful observation as Hemingway quite possibly influenced everyone that directly followed him. But to read Bond sitting at a meal or having a drink, the narration and terse descriptions are cut almost chapter and verse from Hemingway.

And second, I am reminded again that ‘Casino Royale’ weighs in at just 213 pages. It calls to mind what E. Manet must have somewhat meant when he said that, “Everything that is exact is short.” ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s contains just 179 pages. And ‘The Great Gatsby’ has a similar page count of 180.

And yes, there is still plenty of room in the literary world for excruciatingly long novels of the species genius. The list is long but to name a few: ‘Infinite Jest’ – 1104 pages, ‘2666’ – 912 pages, ‘War and Peace’ – 1300 pages.

But I trend mostly towards brevity these days. And for the record, that includes pretty much everything.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once said, “The fewer limitations that an artist places on his work, the less chance he has for artistic success.” And some wise Asian gentleman more or less concurred when he said that “to define something was to limit it.” Which implies that by putting boundaries around something is to explicitly say what that something is and conversely – and just as importantly – what that something isn’t.

So when I started out writing my first novel in 2006 I consciously targeted it for no more than 200 pages. It finished out in 2010 at 66,000 words. Which at 350 words to the page brings it in at a very svelte 188 pages. And I liked that.

So do I view myself as an artist? I’ll answer that with a loud and resounding ‘Hell no!’ But I am a craftsman. Maybe just a journeyman writer craftsman, but a craftsman nonetheless.

But then again being a mere journeyman is nothing to be ashamed of. Kerouac was for the most part a journeyman. His work never evolved. It never got better than ‘On the Road’; his second published novel. His first published novel, ‘The Town and the City’ was an unreadable flop.

But he kept at writing. It took three years (or more) to complete the first real draft of ‘On the Road’. It then underwent a significant revision after every publishing house in the country turned it down. And then it underwent yet another significant revision, initiated by the publishing editor, before it was finally accepted 6 years later for publication.

Some novels do turn out to be art. Sometimes they are a product of genius and sometimes merely the product of one relentless journeyman craftsman.

But the actual work of writing is a craft. And the only way for most of us to become better writers is to write more. To write every single day. And to never give up.

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