Inspiring Writing Quote from John McPhee on Mark Twain

book art mural on wall in Utah with Mark Twain book among other classics

“Repeatedly, he tells his reader how a project such as this one should be done—randomly, without structure, in total disregard of consistent theme or chronology. Just jump in anywhere, tell whatever comes to mind from any era. If something distracts your memory and seems more interesting at the moment, interrupt the first story and launch into the new one. The interrupted tale can be finished later. This is what he did, and the result is about as delicious a piece of writing as you are ever going to come upon, and come upon, and keep on coming upon, as it draws you in for the rest of your life. If ever there was an old-man project, this one was the greatest. It is only seven hundred and thirty-five thousand words long. If Mark Twain had stayed with it, he would be alive today.”

— John McPhee on Mark Twain’s autobiography

Taken from The New Yorker (Personal History section)

“TABULA RASA: Volume One” by John McPhee (Jan 6, 2020)

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