I’m not often interested in why evil is done. I’m interested in what people decide in the face of evil. Or in the face of anything. I like when things go unnamed because I think a reader is better at filling in those blanks than I can be sometimes. I could have been very specific about certain stories, about certain threats in the stories. I certainly had images in mind, and had imagined a whole world I could have described. But when people read a story they introduce themselves to slightly new and different characters and worlds than I made. They’re bringing their own take on everything I’ve put before them.
What I try to develop is that sense of people paying attention to one another’s work because this is part of paying attention to the world, which is what I think a writer must do. If they can only hear their own voice, it doesn’t mean they can’t write, it just means I’m not interested, you know? You don’t have to be interested in every kind of writing, and I’m really not interested in the person who only hears her or his own voice. They can go off and whistle to themselves for the next fifty years, I don’t care, it’s nothing to me. What I‘m interested in working with—because as a writer, as a literary person in a sense, naturally I have certain ideas about the way I want literature to go—well, I really want it to go in some way back to hearing people and giving it back to them. Back to attention—to others, really, and away from the private, single voice.
Fiction ought to announce the problems, dramatize the problems, display them. Yet offer no set answer. An answer would solve the mystery. Writing fiction, for me, is about putting on paper my obsessive interest in something mysterious. I may figure out the source of the mystery, the things that brought some action or image to my mind, but to make an equation of it would ruin the story.
Nietzsche says art is lying. Things that happen to you can go into the poem, but your ultimate fealty is to the art, not to the fact. Any art is going to transform its material in a way that will remove it further from the realm of fact. Not being literal takes a hundred forms.
If you saw a film and the beginning of the film was peaceful, the middle was peaceful, and the end was peaceful—what kind of story is this? You need contrast and conflict in order to tell a story. Stories need to have dark and light, turmoil, all those things. But that does not mean the filmmaker has to suffer in order to show the suffering. Stories should have the suffering, not the people.
What’s that phrase about certain writers being what the culture needs? Most writers just write about what the culture recognizes.
With stories, or during a period of story writing, you’re never sure if you’re going to come up with the next one. Oh, you feel great on bringing a story to completion—what a rush!—but then, speaking of blocks, you go through a period of a week or so when you’ve become an utter failure, a bankrupt, a fraud. You’ll never work again. Of course, if you’re very, very lucky—and I have been lucky—the first stirrings of the next story come. With a novel, you’re locked-in, committed, and you sure do know what you’re going to be doing tomorrow morning.
I inhabited a system in which any boy goes through life with a kind of automatic social promotion, able to take his turn first, answer first, eat first. His ideas are welcome, people smile at him, feed him, pay him well. When he is in trouble, he is usually helped first, or told there will be no consequences this time, and ‘this time’ turns out to be every time. He is like a child raised in a bubble, but one who was well when he entered. It’s the bubble that makes him sick.
I was surrounded by men taught to speak over women and permitted to lash out aggressively after being challenged by women. Professors—even female professors—called on men first and privileged their ideas, even when they were bad ideas.
This became even more serious to me when I decided to become a writer. I didn’t want to read books written by men like this, and I didn’t want to be one of those men either.
Source: The New York Times
If you are focused on the reception of your art, you are distracted. Even thinking of the reception in a noble way, as in ‘This book will change the world!’ is a distraction… There is an intrinsic value in working with your whole heart—even if few notice or value your work.
It’s funny, I have always tried to force a process on myself. I used to think, ‘Writers always wake up and write in the early hours of the morning,’ or, ‘if I’m going to be a writer, I need to write every single day without exception.l Once I stopped forcing myself to adhere to someone else’s process, I wrote more. I don’t write every day, though I try to do revision or research on days I don’t write. Reading is also part of my process, whether that be nonfiction as research or something that achieves a technique I’m striving for in my own writing. I spend more time revising a piece than I do writing the first draft. When I think I’m finished with something, I put it away for a while so I can get some distance and be more objective during my final read-through. That said, I try to be open to my process changing. What works for this project may not work for the next.