Ive been working like mad all day … it seems I never had such a good time — I was just trying to say what I wanted to say — and it is so much fun to say what you want to — I worked till my head all felt light in the top — then stopped and looked…
Chekhov said, ‘People must not be humiliated, that is the main thing.’ I think about that all the time. I think about how shame is the most powerful force and you could write a story about anything horrific or depraved that someone did because of shame and it would feel true. Yes, you would think, someone could possibly do that most craven thing, because of shame. My urge to write and the focus of my job are both motivated by a need to reject unwarranted shame absolutely and explicitly.
There is such a thing as the courage in remaining baffled.
Source: The New York Times
As to plotting or thinking ahead, I don’t in a novel. I let it come page by page, one a day, and carry it in my head. When I say carry I mean the proportions—that is, the length. This is the exhaustion of creating. Towards the end of the book your head is literally bursting. But try and write out a scheme or plan and you will only depart from it. My way you have a chance to set something living.
Gotta learn how to write this one. Each book has its secrets, and it takes its time letting you know what they are. Your job is to keep the faith. You sit down and concentrate on doing the work. Did I work today? If the answer is yes, no other questions. If you’re working, it’s always going well. If you are working, even when it feels like shit, and every single line seems to come as if it was burned into your forehead, you’re still working. So it’s going well.
It must become a part of your daily habit that you spend those two hours messing around with it. By the time it’s over, there are parts of it you’ve done two, three dozen times. They start to please you after a while because you’re getting better every time through it.
That’s the other thing I love to tell students, by the way. You cannot ruin a piece of writing, you can only make it necessary to do it again. You should see my students’ faces when I tell them this: You cannot fuck it up! You can only do it again.
Source: The Atlantic
I realize I’d come to believe that novels full of pain would always offer consolation, would always make people feel less alone in whatever pain their own lives already held—because it had always worked like that for me. But I began to see that it could also work another way: There could be a yearning for hope, for an alternative, for something more positive—for consolation as difference, not echo—and the failure to provide that alternative could feel like betrayal, like permission to destroy, like a promise of what might never change.
Source: The New York Times
The problem isn’t coming up with ideas, it is how to contain the invasion. My ideas are like uninvited guests. They don’t knock on the door; they climb in through the windows like burglars who show up in the middle of the night and make a racket in the kitchen as they raid the fridge. I don’t sit and ponder which one I should deal with first. The one to be wrestled to the floor before all others is the one coming at me with the most vehemence.
Language, of course, is constantly being redefined, not just by demagogues, but by people who employ it. Language is we realized. Each word has passed mouth by mouth over the centuries, changed by intonation and accent, changed by wit and utility. Those before us decided that a certain thing—an amaranth, a colander—needs naming. Naming, as Emerson argues, is a poet’s undertaking. It is not happenstance that the poet’s job is the job of language itself—to reach beyond the impossible chasm of two minds, of multiple times, and make known the inner things. And language, like the other democratic things—freedom of assembly, habeas corpus—is among first casualties of war. The maiming and obliteration of language preempts and attempts to excuse the maiming and obliteration of bodies. Poets, as the caretakers of language, if by no other contested purpose of poetry—to humanize, to emote, to demand a ‘total reaction’ as Muriel Rukeyser puts it—are called upon to respond, to defend their medium.
It’s as if what I’ve written actually becomes a memory that’s rattling around in my brain, and it bounces off me at a particular street corner or sitting in a particular bar. But I guess we all have this experience with our memories if you’ve been living somewhere for a long time. That’s where I met I met that person; that’s where I had that meal; that’s where I had that argument; that’s where I was dumped; that’s the bar where I was dumped that time, etc. So there’s not much of a distinction in my mind between a scene I’ve written and a scene I’ve lived through—which makes sense, I suppose, because often scenes I write have been pieced together or melded together with scenes I’ve lived through.