writing in denial

I just came home from a trip to San Francisco to visit good friends who always manage to inspire and remind me that as Shakespeare once said, “I am wealthy in my friends.” It was good to get away and I got my mind off of this graduate school business.

As for San Fran, all I can say is that I wish I had gone sooner. The food is amazing (one word: Tartine), the nearby opportunities for outdoor escapes are abundant and beautiful, and there’s this healthy feeling about the city that gives me a contagious rosy glow.

Anyhow, airplane travel always gives me the glory of extended time to read for hours on end. So I was able to catch up on the news, celebrity gossip, and my decorating magazines.

I ended up reading many articles and blurbs about a young author currently in the midst of a seemingly deserved PR blitz. If you’re into books, you’ve probably read of and heard a lot of buzz about her, this 25 year old wunderkind novelist Téa Obreht, writer of “The Tiger’s Wife” (Not to be confused with that extremist parenting book of a similar name). It’s Ms. Obreht’s first novel, and the acclaim it has already received is near incredible. I’m excited to read it.

There was an article about her in the NY Times yesterday, and she had some interesting thoughts into her creative process. One in particular, was quite resonant for me. The article talks about how she started feeling out the characters and story that ultimately ended up in “The Tiger’s Wife,” saying:

“Her grandfather died unexpectedly in the spring of 2007, and a few months later Ms. Obreht began working on a short story about a tiger, a deaf-mute circus performer and a young boy.

“The story was a failure,” she said, “but for some reason I wanted to stay with those characters, and eventually the little boy became the narrator’s grandfather, and that changed everything. When I go back through my notes now, I can’t find the place where that happened. I sometimes think the writing process is a state of total denial about what you’re doing or your motivations for doing it.”

I love this idea of a writer being in denial for his/her motivations for writing, both particular characters/situations and just generally. I often feel like that, and the whole picture only reveals itself when I start seeing connections and start gaining distance and time from my piece.


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