Isaac Asimov on writing and reading

After starting Foundation on Apple TV (I’m late, I know), I became interested in Isaac Asimov. I had a vague idea that he was an influential writer, but for what and why, I was ignorant.

Turns out, he’s fascinating.

When I want to learn about something or someone, like any great scholar, I use Wikipedia.

Here’s his analysis of the insanity that is being a full-time writer:

[T]he only thing about myself that I consider to be severe enough to warrant psychoanalytic treatment is my compulsion to write ... That means that my idea of a pleasant time is to go up to my attic, sit at my electric typewriter (as I am doing right now), and bang away, watching the words take shape like magic before my eyes.

In an interview in 1975, after being asked about the sheer absurdity of the fact that Asimov is afraid of airplanes even though he writes about going to the ends of the earth, he drops an incredible line:

I don't like to travel, it keeps me away from my typewriter.

Earlier in the same interview, he says:

What it amounts to [being able to write so much], is that I’m not happy except when I’m writing. It’s almost the only way I can think of to spend my time pleasantly, and so I’m naturally drawn to the typewriter at all times. The day is lost in which I don’t type.

His writing style is focused on simplicity, much to the dismay of science-fiction critics:

I have an informal style, which means I tend to use short words and simple sentence structure, to say nothing of occasional colloquialisms. This grates on people who like things that are poetic, weighty, complex, and, above all, obscure. On the other hand, the informal style pleases people who enjoy the sensation of reading an essay without being aware that they are reading and of feeling that ideas are flowing from the writer's brain into their own without mental friction.

Naturally, people wanted to know how one man was capable of writing over 200 books throughout his lifetime. In 1980, David Letterman asked, “What kind of schedule do you put in to write that many books?”

I get up in the morning, sit down and write, when I finish writing, go back to bed.

Asimov not only understood the power of writing; he preached on the benefits of reading too. On March 16, 1971, he sent this letter congratulating the recipients on a new library:



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