“In the midst of writing ULYSSES he (Joyce) confided in Ezra Pound, ‘I have little or no inspiration or imagination and work very laboriously, exhausting myself with trifles.’ Later he (Joyce) said to Jacques Mercanton, “Why regret my talent? I haven’t any. I write so painfully, so slowly. Chance furnishes me with what I need. I’m like a man who stumbles: my foot strikes something, I look down, and there is exactly what I’m in need of.’ On the other hand, he often agreed with Vico that ‘Imagination is nothing but the working over of what is remembered,’ and said to Frank Budger, ‘Imagination is memory.'”
Footnote pp. 661 JAMES JOYCE The First Revision of the 1959 Classic by Richard Ellmann Oxford University Press Copyright 1959
Practice is necessary. Practice, in combination with lessons and study either formally or informally, is necessary for greatness. This was true for Mozart (he started practicing at age eight and didn’t mature for ten years), for Joyce (he considered his early composition of STEPHEN worthless), and the early work of almost any artist, musician, and writer (Eugene McKinney used to say most playwrights don’t reach their prime until they reach their fifties.) Ten years of practice seems absolutely necessary.
And then, looking back, I know I didn’t practice enough. I realize that I was never disciplined. I never saw the need for practice. I always wrote for a product. It was always more important for me to see my work performed than simply practice my craft, and that incentive unfortunately rewarded me. The incentive stopped when I left the theater (The Dallas Theater Center and the Philippine Theater at Fort Santiago). The practicing…while traveling and working outside the theater… became meaningless and was to remain meaningless; now that the urge to write has returned, I wonder, after all of the years of not practicing, if it is not too late to catch up.
I have known what it takes to be great (or succeed) in any endeavor: practice, practice, and practice. I have been critical of other people for not making that sacrifice. My own sacrifice has been far less than what is necessary for me to attain my ambitions. Am I out of time?