Edward Albee on writing

Interviewer: You have said that it is through the actual process of writing that you eventually come to know the theme of your play. Sometimes you’ve admitted that even when you have finished a play you don’t have any specific idea about its theme. What about that?

Albee: Naturally, no writer who’s any good at all would sit down and put a sheet of paper in a typewriter and start typing a play unless he knew what he was writing about. But at the same time, writing has got to be an act of discovery. Finding out things about what one is writing about. To a certain extent I imagine a play is completely finished in my mind–in my case at any rate–without my knowing it, before I sit down to write. So in that sense, I suppose, writing a play is finding out what the play is. I always find that the better answer to give. It’s a question I despise, and it always seems to me better to slough off the answer to a question which I consider to be a terrible invasion of privacy–the kind of privacy that a writer must keep for himself. If you intellectualize and examine the creative process too carefully, it can evaporate and vanish. It’s not only terribly difficult to talk about, it’s dangerous. You know the old story about the–I think it’s one of Aesop’s Fables, or perhaps not, or a Chinese story–about the very clever animal that saw a centipede that he didn’t like. He said, “My God, it’s amazing and marvelous how you walk with all those hundreds and thousands of legs. How do you do it? How do you get them all moving that way?” The centipede stopped and thought and said, “Well,I take the left front leg and then I–” and he thought about it for a while, and he couldn’t walk.

10 thoughts on “Edward Albee on writing

  1. “writing a play is finding out what the play is.” – i guess that is all we can say about writing a poem, too. Great answer. “f you intellectualize and examine the creative process too carefully, it can evaporate and vanish. It’s not only terribly difficult to talk about, it’s dangerous.”

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