When writers produce marvelous, big-hearted, prize-winning books, they are always asked the same question: How’d you do it?
At this point, the vast majority of writers do exactly the same thing. They lie their heads off. They say that writing book came naturally–“like taking dictation from God,” as the old saying goes. They talk about the burning-bush flashes of miraculous insight through which the book suddenly comes to life. Perhaps for some writers this is actually true.
Junot Diaz (The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) is not one of those writers. In this article from Oprah Magazine, he gives an insightful and moving account of how he came to write his Pulitzer Prize-winning book.
I wrote every day. I actually worked really hard at writing. At my desk by 7 A.M., would work a full eight and more. Scribbled at the dinner table, in bed, on the toilet, on the No. 6 train, at Shea Stadium. I did everything I could. But none of it worked….
There were no sudden miracles. It took two more years of heartbreak, of being utterly, dismayingly lost before the novel I had dreamed about for all those years finally started revealing itself. And another three years after that before I could look up from my desk and say the word I’d wanted to say for more than a decade: done. That’s my tale in a nutshell. Not the tale of how I came to write my novel but rather of how I became a writer.
I can relate. So can the Bronte sisters, I imagine. Miracles happen all the time in writing, but they’re almost all little ones, that get strung together through time and persistence into something worthwhile.
PS — I’m headed off to the PopTech conference in Maine this week — looks completely fascinating. Authors Michael Pollan, Jonah Lehrer, Steve Barr, founder of Green Dot schools, Ashley Merryman, who co-wrote NurtureShock, Kurt Anderson, and more. I’m giving a presentation with legendary master coach Hans Jensen where, among other things, he’s going to teach a beginner to play cello. Stay tuned.