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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike: Something Wanting to Be Born

Have you ever had the feeling that you had something in you that needed to be said? Something wanting to be born? Novelist John Updike, who passed away this week, described his writing process in a 1984 interview:

The moment of excitement comes before you sit down at your desk. It’s when you get the idea, and you feel it inside you as something wanting to be born, wanting to be said. And then you see the book more or less whole; then you are inspired, if ever, and feel excited about it. The rest is work… (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99942825)

I am no novelist, but these words resonated with me. Whether the work has to do with paint, budgets, parenting or home repair, there is often a moment in the creative process when you know there is something wanting to be born. You have no idea at that point how it will be said, or how it will turn out, or the work involved. (If you did, you might never start the project. Updike is right—often ‘the rest is work’.)

Thank God for John Updike. And thank God for these moments of ‘seeing things whole’. Without them we might never sit down at our desks to do whatever it is we are called to do.


  1. Now that you have discovered that there are computers in heaven perhaps we will hear more from John Updike. A columnist in the New York Times (Verlyn Klinkenborg) says,

    "If you had to choose a writer to report from the afterlife, could you do better than John Updike? Death needs no exaggeration, after all. I can imagine Updike — who died on Tuesday at age 76 — going to work joyously and methodically to describe his new surroundings. Those posthumous works would tell us something as round and substantial about the afterworld as Updike’s Rabbit books did about a certain time in a certain place called Pennsylvania.

    Not forgetting Updike's at best ambiguous relationship to religion, I'm sure the reports would be especially illuminating.

  2. And illuminating is exactly what we like at Lumunos.

  3. Signs and signage – road signs, movie marquees, newspaper headlines real and imaginary, municipal signs, electronic message boards, storefronts, etc. – function as important indicators of the shifts, changes, and developments in Angstrom’s consciousness as he grows older throughout the decades chronicled in Updike’s ‘Rabbit’ series. Perhaps I should say Angstrom’s awareness of the signs, or, to be a bit more accurate, Updike’s descriptions of Angstrom’s awareness of the signs, rather than the signs themselves.