john mcphee on ‘getting going’ and ‘finishing things’

In the New Yorker, award-winning journalist writer John McPhee wrote the best advice we’ve read for aspiring writers, and for just about anyone dealing with a creative ‘block’. The 4th Draft offers plenty of useful chunks and techniques, but our very favorite snippet is an exchange McPhee had with his daugher Jenny, a novelist.

Jenny said, “I can’t seem to finish anything.”

I said, “Neither can I.”

Then I went back to my own writing, my own inability to get going until five in the afternoon, my animal sense of being hunted, my resemblance to the sand of Gibralter.

We found McPhee’s words deeply heartening as we sit here at 11:36 pm writing, wondering where the day has gone. And knowing that the key is getting back to the writing, despite detours and procrastination.


If you’re new to McPhee’s work, check out The John McPhee Reader: eleven of his books in one.


One Response to john mcphee on ‘getting going’ and ‘finishing things’

  1. Mary Kelly 07.17.2013 at 4:46pm #

    That reminds me of Anne Lamott – she is hilarious, pragmatic and really smart – she says you have to do shitty first drafts and just keep doing them . . .

Leave A Comment

subscribing = loving

If the Improvised Life is a source of creativity, inspiration, ideas and change in your daily life, please consider becoming a Friend with Benefits. A little bit goes a long way towards helping us publish fresh AD-FREE content each day.