On the balance between work and writing
I've spent several rainy lunchtimes reading Max Brod's biography of his friend, Franz Kafka. Great criticism has been leveled against Brod for his decisions as executor of Kafka's literary estate. He has been attacked not only for his decision to publish the work in the first place, but the way he has structured and manipulated Kafka's incomplete work to promote particular interpretations. This has all been discussed at length by numerous writers in the last fifty years, and I don't care to go into any further detail today.
Instead, I'd like to share a passage I came across in a chapter named 'To earn one's living or live one's life'. Max Brod and Franz Kafka were both ambitious young writers restrained by daily employment in the civil service, and the passage in question expresses this very neatly. If you ask me, there's also something sweetly naive about it:
Well, my lunchtime is over. Time to get back to work.
'What we both strove after with burning ardour was a post with a 'single shift' - that is, office from early morning till two or three in the afternoon - now I can write this 'or' so easily as though to us at the time it didn't seem as if the whole health of our souls depended on this one hour - and none in the afternoon. Jobs with commercial firms, which meant being in the office mornings and afternoons, didn't leave any continuous stretch of the day over for literary work, walks, reading, the theatre, and so on. And even when one came home after three, by the time one had eaten, recovered a little from the soul-destroying work and was ready to switch over into a state of freedom one had been looking forward to - there was already very little of the day left.'