Wednesday, December 10, 2008

After a long absence

I wish I had great things to report, achievements, items checked off my "to do" list while I've been away from blogging. I don't. I crashed on NaNo, making just under 10,000 words. I have been in a state of anxious, depressed procrastination. Working my way out of it, I hope.

Today, this little blurb about O. Henry and procrastination arrived as part of my "Today in Literature" newsletter. It's from a book called O. Henry: The Legendary Life of William S. Porter

Henry was a drinker, a free spirit and a notorious procrastinator, but so famous that all was tolerated. He had promised a Christmas story to the New York Sunday World, for which they had set aside the center of the magazine section. When no story arrived, the newspaper's desperate illustrator, sent to Henry's apartment to beg for some hint of what to do, was told to draw a poorly furnished room: "...On the bed, a man and a girl are sitting side by side. They are talking about Christmas. The man has a watch fob in his hand. He is playing with it while he is thinking. The girl's principal feature is the long beautiful hair that is hanging down her back. That's all I can think of for now...." The illustrations were done and sent to press, but still no story. More begging messengers were sent to Henry's apartment, to be told that he was "empty as a brass drum." At the eleventh hour and facing disaster — a magazine with blank center pages, except for some mysterious drawings — the editor sent a final plea. Henry poured scotches for the reporter who delivered it, and for himself: "I've thought of an idea but I need a living model. I'm going to write a story about you and your wife.... I think that you two are the kind who would make sacrifices for each other. Now stay on the sofa and don't interrupt." Several drinks and three hours later, Henry finished "The Gift of the Magi," and the editor had it set in type by evening.

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