January 11 - Writer's Workshop

Story topics

On January 11, 1902, a newspaper article was published in which Paul Laurence Dunbar described his writing process.

I write when convenience lets me or the spirit moves me, my object being to do a certain amount of work, rather than to work a certain length of time.  When I first began my career I wrote rapidly, accomplishing, without difficulty, 5000 words a day.  Now I write slowly.  I sometimes spend three weeks on a single chapter, and then am not satisfied with the result.  Indeed, I have never yet succeeded in perfectly reproducing what was in my own mind.  Last spring, when filling an order for a prose composition for Lippincott's Magazine, I wrote 50,000 words in thirty days, but I have never recovered from the strain of it.  Indeed, my work becomes harder, rather than easier, as I go on, simply because I am more critical of it.

"Dayton's Dunbar."  Dayton Daily Journal (Dayton, Ohio).  January 11, 1902.  Page 9.

Paul referred to the writing of his fourth novel The Sport of the Gods, which appeared in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine the previous spring.

The "new" Lippincott for May contains a complete novel by Paul Laurence Dunbar.  It is an evident attempt of the author to do for the enfranchised negro what "Uncle Tom's Cabin" did for the negro in slavery.  The tale opens with a false arrest, trial and conviction in a Southern town;  then the scene changes to this city, and here the writer speaks with all sincerity when he says of the Southern negroes who come North seeking their fortunes:  "It was better for them to sing to God across the Southern fields."

"Notes and News."  The New York Times (New York, New York).  April 27, 1901.  Page 304.

In another newspaper interview, Paul revealed more about his writing habits.

Prose or poetry?  It depends on my mood which I like the best to write.  The mood also determines the rapidity of my work.  Sometimes I've stuck an entire week on a single line of poetry.  At others I've entirely abandoned a composition because I couldn't get it to suit me.

"Dunbar's 'Clorindy,'" by Daisy Fitzhugh Ayres.  Lexington Leader (Lexington, Kentucky).  September 10, 1901.