Monday 2 May 2011

"Don't think about writing. Think about typing."

A wonderful interview by Salon's Laura Miller with Robert Gottlieb, editor, head of Simon and Schuster, then Alfred A. Knopf and then the New Yorker, and now reviewer and writer:
As I've told generations of writers who have writer's block, "Don't think about writing. Think about typing."

That, for instance, is how I started my Bernhardt book. I had no plan or outline, so I forced myself to sit down and I typed: "Sarah Bernhardt was born in July or September or October of 1844. Or was it 1843? Or even 1841?" That, of course, got me into it, but it also established the tone of the book. From there on it was easy until halfway through when I found that there were two stories -- the story of her career and her art, and the story of her notorious personal life and the world's reaction to it. So I had to stop and think, how do I divide this up? Luckily I have a structural mind, which you have to have if you're an editor, but I can't structure in advance.

I suppose the thing that makes it possible for me to do this is that I just don't think of myself as a writer. I think of myself as an editor. I provide myself with the copy and then I edit it. Look: Whatever gets you through the night.

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