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Arthur Miller Never Stopped Writing Death of a Salesman

(Burning question, writers. With the advent of uploading books on Amazon et al, where you can print per order, do you want to go in and rewrite your book? Stephen King says he goes back to a book after months of leaving it on the shelf to do his rewrite. Maybe distance gives you the opportunity to write it better? Thoughts?)

The year was 1984. “Death of a Salesman” was coming to Broadway, and I attended one of the preview performances. Seated next to me on the aisle was Arthur Miller, with a yellow pad on his lap. As soon as the play began, he started writing furiously on the yellow pad. By intermission, he had filled (no exaggeration, which I’m prone to do, but not this time) maybe half the pages. I was exhausted. Pretending to watch a play while you are really trying to read the comments on a page being written on in the dark next to you will cause you to take to your bed, to be sure.


The houselights came up at intermission, and he continued writing. I waited for my moment.


“You already wrote the play once. It must be tiring to write it again,” I remarked.


He looked at me and replied, “I’ve never stopped writing it.”


That was it. He left before the curtain went up again.


Here is the thing: Mr. Miller wrote 25 plays in his lifetime. He won three Tony Awards, a Pulitzer, and an Emmy. And he never stopped writing that which he’d already written.


We walk away way too early from our masterpieces. What I realize is that it’s not about creating new things all the time; it can also be about revisiting things we have built during our life and improving them. Relationships come to mind. A garden (OK, in my case, that is never going to happen, but it might work for someone else). The pieces I write about my life and the lives of others. Baking chocolate chip cookies. Really, the same recipe for sixty years, Christine? Is that arrogance or laziness?


I have told this story before, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized what a gift it was. Even if he was a Marxist.


--Christine Merser, Apricity Publishing

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