Dip over to Salon and dig the most gifted Jennifer Egan:
One of my strengths as a writer is that I’m a good problem-solver. I write these unthinking, ungoverned first drafts. The project for me always is to turn that instinctive stuff into pages that work.
I want all the flights of fancy, and I can only get them in a thoughtless way. So I allow myself that. Which means that my next step has to be all about problem-solving. My attitude cannot be, Gee, I wrote it, it’s good. I’d never get anywhere. It’s all about seeing what’s wrong from a very analytical place. It’s a dialectic.
Once I have a draft I make the plans, edit on hard copy, and make an extensive outline for the revision. The revision notes I wrote for “Look at Me” were 80 pages long.
This essay appears in the book: Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and WhyThey Do What They Do.
For more on one of Brooklyn's finest, check out this 2011 Guardian article by Emma Brockes:
The desire to become a writer struck suddenly and without warning when she was a teenage backpacker in the early 1980s, traipsing across Europe, lonely and depressed, missing her family. This was the era of queuing for the public phone box: "There was a kind of intensity to the isolation of travel at that time that's completely gone now. You had to wait in line at a phone place, and then there weren't even answering machines. That feeling of waiting in line, paying for the phone and then not only having no one answer, but not being able to leave a message so that they would never know you called. It's hard to fathom what that disconnection felt like. But I'm actually very grateful for it. Because it was extreme. And that kind of extreme isolation showed me that I wanted to be a writer."
"I wish I knew the answer. I don't know. I think there was a kind of clarity to being reduced to myself in this extreme way. I was also really scared. I kept having what I think we would now call panic attacks. This would've been the summer of 1981 and I just thought I was flipping out. Somehow in that extreme state, I wrote constantly; harrowing journal pages where I'm narrating my own panic. 'I don't understand why I can't make it stop' – trying to understand what I was scared of." She smiles. "And I suppose the essentialness of writing for me was revealed in that experience." Egan eventually got hold of her mother on the phone, who told her to come home to California, which she did.
[Photo Credit: Tim Knox]