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How to Not Write a Book Part 2

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Non-Writers of Books Poem


Oh! you who write not as you wish,

who daily ignore New Year's promise,

who avoid Daruma*'s one-eyed stare,

alas! pretending not to care:

May you find comfort in example,

be it though a tiny sample, of

one who filled pages letter by letter,

but in the end was not much better.

*Daruma: At the beginning of the year, color in one eye on your Daruma doll. Make a goal for yourself, and when you achieve it by the end of the year, you can color in the other eye. If not, re-read the above poem, and start again, ideally with a new Daruma doll, but some people use white out...

Example: Mrs Hilberry

I am grateful to my friend Sue for adding to the growing body of knowledge on How to Not Write a Book, with her contribution of astonishing new material from Hilary Newman's Anne Thackeray Ritchie: and her influence on the work of Virginia Woolf (Bloomsbury Heritage series, 49). This unlikely source reveals that Anne Ritchie, daughter of writer William Thackeray and aunt to Virginia Woolf, was herself only too familiar with How to Not Write a Book, and even inspired a Woolf character specialized in the technique, Mrs Hilberry:

She had no difficulty in writing, and covered a page every morning as instinctively as the thrush sings, but nevertheless, with all this to urge and inspire, and the most devout intention to accomplish the work, the book still remained unwritten. (p.30, Woolf, Night and Day)

Woolf's father Leslie Stephens said that Ritchie, the real Mrs Hilberry:

...wrote fragments as thoughts struck her and pinned them (with literal not metaphorical pins) at odd parts of her MS, till it became a chaotic jumble, maddening to the printers. (Leslie Stephens, p 13) (p 17)

At least she got something to the printers, but have you heard of her? In contrast, Woolf, in spite of a mental illness which kept her from working for months at a time, was a prolific writer considered one of the best, but that's not our topic today.

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