This week’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday is dedicated to Franz Kafka, an author who, during his lifetime received very little attention but has posthumously been regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Years ago I read his story, The Metamorphosis, which is arguably his most famous work, and loved it. It’s about a man who wakes up one morning and finds that he has been transformed into some sort of giant-insect-creature. He still posses his mind though and the story is told from his perspective. We follow him as he deals with this transformation and the toll it takes on him and those around him. It’s a very interesting, and inspiring read. I highly recommend it!
Kafka himself was also an interesting man. Born on July 03, 1883 in Prague to a Jewish family. He was the oldest of six siblings, his two brothers died when he was young and his sisters would later die during the Holocaust. During his lifetime, he published only a few short stories and never finished any of his novels, unless “The Metamorphosis” is considered a (short) novel. He was an “incessant womanizer” but suffered greatly from low self-esteem. By all accounts though he was a very entertaining and intelligent man, and “boyishly handsome”.
The really interesting thing is that while he came to become such an influential author after his death, during his lifetime he never seemed to want to share a much of his work. He burned most of it and instructed his friend to burn any remaining “diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others’), sketches, and so on” after his death. His friend did not follow his wishes, something he told Kafka he would not do, and oversaw the publication of these items. None of the novels Kafka wrote were ever completed and his friend had a hard time putting his work in chronological order because Kafka had a habit of starting in the middle of a notebook.
“I need solitude for my writing; not ‘like a hermit’ – that wouldn’t be enough – but like a dead man.”
I’ve written before about feeling the need to write in private but I have noticed more and more that it is becoming a requirement for me to get the thoughts flowing. I write a lot at work and my co-workers can be very distracting. They talk a lot and laugh loudly and slam doors and drawers. I end up getting frustrated and closing the browser figuring I’ll try again when I get home. But then when I try to write at home, I can’t, because I want to spend time with my girlfriend. But every once in a while I do get some peace, and in those moments, when I can be completely alone, that is when I do my best work. Or at least it feels like I am doing my best work.
I keep trying to write around other people because I don’t have the time to spare to be alone but it never works out. I just end up getting angry at the people around me for being noisy while I am clearly trying to concentrate. So now I am trying to find ways to find that peace even when I am around other people. So far, headphones have helped tremendously. On a positive note though, while doing research for this post I came across this article about how people who are easily distracted might actually be creative geniuses!