Wit & Wisdom

Game Changers & Tales of Triumph and Woe

Can Messy Be A Sign Of Brilliance?

CJ Westerberg, March 18, 2014 2:47 PM

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"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind,
then what are we to think of an empty desk?"  ---Einstein

The photograph above is from Einstein's office in Princeton from Life magazine in 1955.

What would Einstein's and Christie's "desktop" look like today?

From Einstein we move to Agatha Christie, where Slate has fun romping through her writing "habits", gleaned from author John Curran's discoveries taken from his new book, "Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks".   Excerpts From Slate:

AgathaChristie.book"She was clever, learned, and unflinching when it came to plunging a paper knife into a man's back or poisoning an old lady with strychnine. Agatha Christie, the author of more than 60 crime novels, six straight novels, more than 140 short stories, 22 plays, and uncounted poems, wrote with matchless poise about death, greed, and, on occasion, truly nasty, motiveless evil. About 20 years ago, I read all of Christie's crime novels. Today, I would kill for the chance once more to stumble on one of her bodies . .  .  ."

" . . . You could never guess the murderers until she unveiled them, and then you had that fantastic sensation of surprise and - at the same time - utter inevitability. Ah!  . . .This perfect dissonance - for which there is probably a good long German word - is so universally desired that Dame Agatha Christie sold more than 2 billion books in 45 languages (or, if you believe Wikipedia, 4 billion in 56 languages).

What, then, could be more shocking than to discover that the dame was no lady? Agatha didn't sit at a pristine desk neatly typing her novels, Chapter 1 followed by Chapter 2, and so on, before donning gloves and descending at 6 p.m. for a sherry. In Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks, John Curran, a Christie expert who has trawled through 73 of the author's previously unread notebooks, reveals the utter derangement in Christie's method. . ."

" . . .Her less-than-refined writerly day began with finding her notebook, which surely she'd left right there. Then, having found a notebook (not the one she'd used yesterday), and staring in stunned amazement at the illegible chicken scratchings therein, she would finally settle down to jab at elusive characters and oil creaky plots. Most astonishing, Curran discovers that for all her assured skewering of human character in a finished novel, sometimes when Christie started her books, even she didn't know who the murderer was. Ah! It makes sense - a brilliant mystery writer must first experience the mystery! Or does it? . . ."

". . . At any one time, Christie would have half a dozen notebooks going.  Christie's promiscuous note-taking meant that any one novel or play might be distributed over multiple notebooks and many, many years. Christie used Notebook 3 for at least 17 years and 17 novels. . . . For some novels, she tried to impose method on her chaotic practice, assigning letters to scenes and moving them around. But her efforts at organization petered out pretty quickly. . . "

". . . How on earth did Christie draw her perfectly tensioned structures from this formless mess? . . ."  


Previously published by The Daily Riff April 2010

Related:
Great MInds Don't "Do Desk" Alike. Surprise.


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