Writing is self-taunting, mind-aching, perfection-added punishment. It doesn’t pay well. It ruins your sleep, weekends, manicures. Also, all of the writers I know are at least 11 percent insane.
Junot Diaz is one of the best writers to come along in the last couple of decades. He has a Pulitzer, and his new book, This is How You Lose Her, was shortlisted last week for the National Book Award. I hate him, because I want to be him. (Also, most writers hate each other at least half the time.)
The New York Times Magazine interviewed him for its Inspiration issue. It helped and entertained me immensely to read about the battles of a master. (Also, the book is coming home with me from City Lights in San Francisco. I’m just starting it, but I’m pre-ordained to adore.)
NYT: How did the writing go?
Diaz: Miserable. Miserable. The stories just wouldn’t come.
Did any of the stories come easily? “Miss Lora” was the absolute easiest. I tried to write the first page maybe a dozen times in the last decade, and I would never get past that, so I never wrestled with it too much. And then one day it just hit, beginning to end.
That must have been a good day. It was the only good day I had in this whole book. The thing is, you try your best, and what else you got? You try your best, really, that’s all you can do. And for me, my best happens really so rarely. I was so always heartened by people like Michael Chabon who write so well and seem to write so fast. Edwidge Danticat writes really well and really fast. I was always heartened by them. I keep thinking one day it’ll happen. It might.
Find the entire interview here. In the printed version that came to my doorstep, there were curse words. I appreciated that particularly.