There’s a great interview with David Sedaris in The Missouri Review about his life and how he works. Also, some great discussion on fiction versus nonfiction. One interesting exchange was about the need to wait before your write about something. I think this is one of the big problems with blogs and blog culture. People feel like they need to fill the space in a blog, so they often rush to post about something without letting it percolate. Here’s what Sedaris had to say:
Interviewer: Do you ever feel you need to wait before you can write about certain events, or about things in your own life?
Sedaris: Definitely. I generally have to wait until I can laugh about something or put it into some kind of perspective. There are stories that I try to write every summer. I turn back to these stories and I wind up thinking, “Nope, not time yet.” There’s this woman named Helen who lived across the hall from us in New York, and I wrote about her for Esquire seven years ago. I worked on it really hard, but it just wasn’t right. It’s not time to write about Helen yet. The first magazine thing I ever did at Esquire was to spend a week at the morgue in Phoenix. I’m not a reporter, and I felt this pressure to flatter the people who worked there. They were very kind to me. Every summer I think, okay, maybe now I can write that story, but it’s not time yet. Sometimes I’ll try to force it. Then other times, wham, all of a sudden I’m able and the time is right. I tried to write about going to the Anne Frank House right after I went, but it took me two years. Was it Flannery O’Connor who said that a writer’s job is not to have an experience but to contemplate experiences? That seems right to me—trying to make sense of it all. Then, too, it’s all about finding the first line.
One of the great things about waiting to write about something is that you get to find out the actual end of a story. Blogs encourage you to record what happens to you, but without the luxury of knowing the impact it will actually have on you. How you are is often not as interesting as what made you that way.
The next time you sit down to write and it’s just not coming, maybe it’s still too soon. Set it aside and try again later. It’s not writer’s block, it’s just not ready yet.