Writers on Writing – Charlie Rose



you you I think said famously literature is an act against cliches what what did you said Oh a war against war against Cassation yeah um you know whenever you write that the heat was stifling or she rummaged in her handbag this is dead free you know yeah and by the way I mean the wars extended onto another sphere people who use these these moldering novelties like seen it done it got the t-shirt he went ballistic I don't think so hello all that these are these are dead words they're heard words and what cliche is is is heard writing heard thinking and heard feeling and the writer you've got to look for weight and voice and freshness and and make it your own and this is what writers what's that process for you um well it's not new you get a cliche and then discarded wiggling around or or use Stirling's for there is if any of that no but I mean how do you how do you plumb the creativity to avoid cliches er my question well the process for me and this is how I've always work other things have changed but this remained the same the style isn't you don't take an ordinary paragraph your decorative paragraph and then give it style lots of rumble and Wow you know in fuzz box you don't do it that way what you're trying to do is is be faithful to your perceptions and and transmit them as faithful as you can but in a language you know that you know I just say these sentences again and again in my head until they sound right and you know that there's no objective reason why they're right they just sound right to me so it's it's euphony sometimes it's harshness you want but it's it's just matching up the perception with the words in a kind of semi musical way it's a tonal I love to write and that's the one thing that I stick by and I love to be around writers to know them and to learn about them and really with these essays I feel like I get an opportunity to express my faith which is the idea that fiction is a good in the world a great good that for me it made me I am the person I am because I understood fiction is a great good in the way yeah it's a because it offers a truly goes why some truths and it most of all it offers you a person in their best form like often when you meet writers I know people are disappointed when they meet me or when they meet other writers they seem like they're not talk well they're varied or they're stupid or whatever go a book is somebody's best self and this is your best self by a long way and so I why is this better than you it just I'm better when I'm writing and I'm more considered and I'm more you more humane you're trying to write about other people you're not always thinking about yourself in life people are you cat is sickle vein they've got things they need to do or want to do our ambitions when you're right if you're doing it well you give up a lot of that negative capability supposedly that's what it's called and when it goes well that that's what it feels like negative capability yeah to let go of all your striving or your sense of self and kind of let the world in kids as I do are you say happy that yeah are you happiest when you're writing uh it's not always easy because I have a lot of doubt about whether what I'm writing is any good at all but when it's going well it's so joyful and oh it's good um what's good as you can make as good as I can make it and you all you always can see it's very rare I think that a bad review is a shock you know the weaknesses of the book it can hurt like you didn't have to say now where you're so strongly or bring up my mother or whatever you know there are details that hurt but I think you have to be quite blind not to know when you've made a big mistake you can feel it I can anyway you can I think so but maybe that judgment will fade or is fading I don't because you're entertaining because people want to duplicate your success they're always asked this question how does he find the story when you finally have told us yeah I mean I I try in the kind of forward to the volume to answer this question because I do get it all the time and there isn't a neat pad answer but I say end up in the phone it's about teaching yourself that everything is interesting because our natural inclination as humans is when we're confronted with things we immediately try to edit we have to add it right and we have to sort of dismiss things and say I'm not interested at not interested in that and as a writer I think you have to typically if you have to write as many words as I do is if you have David Remnick hanging over your head demanding with you turn in story of the story you have to reverse that very common human desire to edit and just to surrender and just to say everyday is interesting all I have to do is show it is is ask questions is follow-up is if you get trapped next to someone on an airplane and they start talking to you you have to resist the impulse to say I don't want to hear it I have to say well actually maybe there's a chance dealt and believe me I've heard things from people in airplanes that have like perked up my ears and all of us have a kind of blind spot about our own stories and we don't realize what's interesting about our own lives and I count myself among them you know it takes a an outsider to see sometimes what's beautiful or been interesting in and someone's like there was a piece I did about mammography and bombing and it all started because I went to see a radiologist uptown at Columbia Presbyterian right and our bet is I forgotten one of the big hospitals really interesting chap he's chatting to me isaw to where son I'll tell you which he said okay this is it sloan-kettering the sloan-kettering getting right and here talking about reading a mammogram and it happened to be that very moment when right before the Gulf War when Colin Powell was on the hill than at the UN with those pictures those overdose spy satellite photographs of what sedans wasn't supposedly how they were moving the things are exactly right and he said this thing he's just talking away about reading a mammogram and he mentions that and he says you know I have such enormous sympathy and respect for what they do over there because we're in the same business and I just thought it's really bad saying I hadn't thought about that way but they are of course they're both people who and that's what the piece is all about it's all about what it means to look at a picture the people who have to get you're given pictures have to make sense of them and everyone on the outside thinks that once you have a picture the answer is obvious right and both of them struggle with trying to communicate to the public but no no the picture is the source of more illusion and heartbreak and ambiguity than you can imagine right and it was just at that and that's why I had a piece of old it was this it tells two stories a story about the struggle of people in the intelligence world to make sense of the photographs they take of whatever bombing sites what-have-you and the struggle of mammographer x' to make sense of these pictures they take of women's breasts which are which are invitations to ambiguity they they they they raise as many questions as as the answer and there's something and also in both cases there's something heroic in the struggle of these experts to bring some order to this kind of to the mystery that the questions set them that the photographs expose novels are harder for you they're not only much harder well they're harder because they it's something that you when you're doing a piece or you're out in the world for a while anyway then you then you kind of put yourself in a room and write it over a fairly short period of time but a novel you're going to be in that room all by yourself for a pretty long period of time and you're going to be in a bad mood because it's not going very well there's a it doesn't go well at first it just automatically doesn't go well until you're almost finished with it then you start having a good time with it but by they're almost finished before you have a good time yes you do not have a good time with it because it's not going where you want it to go and the characters can't take over I mean you've got these fascinating characters they don't take over until they until you're quite the minute they take over you're within you can see home I mean you can see daylight then but not until and that's so that the minute that happens then you work day and night and get a finish my primary hope is that the reader have an experience that is be taken up in a book suspended carried along have a great time along the way ideally laughs ideally cry think sure but think not in a you know we're going to make you think about things way to think think because it's fun to think sometimes and I think there's a distinction there between having a message that I'm trying to convey and trying to render my experience of the world and share that with someone else and you know I this is a book that was written from a rather lonely place and I think that you know we people are lonely you're alone with yourself and and and novels are about connecting across the great gaps from the rather lonely center of one person to the rather lonely center of another I'm not I'm not positive that's a useful thing to do I think it's a pleasurable thing to do and it's something I'm committed to but I don't know if you could like see the lowered suicide rate or lower elevation no no but I think there is some value in terms of self-examination and some value in terms of seeing through the gift of a novelist human experience that you somehow helps you understand your own human experience well if someone gets that from the book that's great but it was a byproduct for you that's not what you hope they'll see Beeker I think so I think that's safe to say yeah I kind of a hard liner on the the ivy singer line about the primary responsibility of the novelist is to tell a story that is that's that's number one and you know two three and four way behind in social criticism is even further behind it used to be very important to me at this point it's it's something that it's less important in my life I would say and it's it's it's become more of a background thing in the books as well I love words you know I I would say that I'm a writer and you know ed by which I mean I have written some books um I believe I will write more books why do you believe that because they're those who say you're scared of writing that is true I cause you can imagine what good is and you're not sure that you can be that good no good I'm not worried about you know oh great yes a bit right yes I'm afraid of writing that is without question true and I am afraid of writing in to the extent where I believe I've taken all human fears and play someone this one thing you know it's the way that you know most people have many fears they spread them out over a you know number of fearful things you know I've taken all human fear put it on this one thing the same way that like a junkie for instance has many problems then once you become a junkie you have one problem you're a junkie you know I believe that I've decided I can't stand all these other fears I'll just have this one fear so I fear really of the blank page you know however I have two half-finished books and how long have they been half-finished one has been half-finished for quite a bit longer than the other but as they did propose to my extremely indulgent publisher he said he made it said II I have two half-finished books we put them together I have a whole book it may not make any sense but we live in the era of no sense on the other hand if I would take you to somewhere where I'm gonna speak or whether I'm doing an interview in which there were a thousand people you could walk onstage with no fear and no worry that you could engage that audience in a minute I have no fear of talking and in fact I the bigger the audience the more pleasurable I find it I actually enjoy now why is it different in talking and writing well if you've ever seen anyone's conversation transcribed you would know I mean people imagine they speak in perfect sentences or paragraphs you know but they do not and my editor pointed out to me that although I could consider myself an atheist and have done so since I was like seven years old he said this is your religion you are reverent about the book and that is what slaps you and I think that probably is true Reverend bought the book and irreverent about everything else yes well because nothing – box

24 thoughts on “Writers on Writing – Charlie Rose

  1. Truly annoys me when Charlie Rose cuts off his guests, and you have to try to tune Rose out to hear where the guest was going with the thought. Sometimes its even when the guest is trying to put the thought together and he gets impatient and tries to supply the answer. I KNOW someone like this and its impossible to have a conversation with them.

  2. Hello how is every one want to get paid to write join this very good site am making money now so can you its easy join now why wait get paid to write https://tinyurl.com/y9poca7w

  3. Charlie Rose can sometimes be a little disruptive, but he's also one of the only guys that brought us so many interviews exclusively with writers. Something should be said for that.

  4. This video is a gem. I share it with my writing students each semester. Here are some quotes from the video that I like to point out to young writers:
    Martin Amis: "Make it your own." (1:11)
    Zadie Smith: "A book is somebody's best self." (3:06)
    Malcolm Gladwell: "It's about teaching yourself that everything is interesting." (4:53) "All of us have a kind of blind spot around our own stories." (5:48)
    Joan Didion: "It doesn't go well at first." (8:49)
    Jonathan Franzen: "Novels are about connecting across the great gaps from the rather lonely center of one person to another." (10:13)
    Fran Lebowitz: "I'm afraid of writing. That's without question true." (12:00)

  5. After all the noise from the desperate world, I listen to Zadie Smith and within minutes my the dial turns right down. There seems to be a silent buzzing which seems contradictory. But that is ok as well I guess.

  6. So gross how he keeps talking over Zadie Smith so much more often than he does with any of the men guests.

  7. Joan Didion: "Have loved ones die or Jim Morrison not show up for an interview and voila! There's your material."

  8. And finally, Fran Lebowitz. Endowed, she is, with the power of utterance and dry wit. She consumes me with reverence. It hurts when she stops speaking for her voice is melodic symphony.

    – Godfrey Silas

  9. I was wondering. I'm writing a fiction. An actual current famous band is depicted in the second half of my story as themselves (using real actual names), like an accidental encounter that builds up the plot to the climax. However, the events that occurs are fiction and in no way engaging in acts that are untoward. The acts are more towards comedic and heroic. Is this legal? Will I get sued by the band?  Hope someone could answer my question. Thanks!

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