Interviewer: To what do you attribute your success as a writer?

Wilson: To the use of the periodic sentence.

Interviewer: Surely that is not the whole story.

Wilson: And to my use of the colon and the semi-colon. Writing so long for the New Yorker may have led me a little to overdo the comma.

Interviewer: What else?

Wilson: My invariable habit of writing in pencil on those "legal-size" yellow pads -- the kind that are ruled with blue lines. I believe that composing on the typewriter has probably done more than anything else to deteriorate English prose.

"An Interview with Edmund Wilson" (1962)

To write what you are interested in writing and to succeed in getting editors to pay for it, is a feat that may require pretty close calculation and a good deal of ingenuity. You have to learn to load solid matter into notices of ephemeral happenings; you have to develop a resourcefulness at pursuing a line of thought through pieces on miscellaneous and more or less fortuitous subjects; and you have to acquire a technique of slipping over on the routine of editors the deeper independent work which their over-anxious intentness on the fashions of the month or the week have conditioned them automatically to reject.

Edmund Wilson


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