Monday, March 8, 2010

On writing, from an interview with the poet Chris Abani:

Percival Everett took me to Barnes & Noble. He walked me over to the fiction section and said, “Pull out every tenth book and read the first two pages….separate the books into three piles based on the following questions: Which books are important and inevitable? Which books are good? Which books are bad?...”

[When] I was finished, I realized that I had about four books in the “important and inevitable” pile. These were books that just had to be in the world.

And so at the end he said, “What you should be asking yourself is not Will I get published?...What you should ask yourself…is, Can I write something important? Can I write something… inevitable?” Well, I asked Percival, “So how do you know?” And he said, “You will know what is important and inevitable because it’s the story that keeps you up at night. It drives you crazy. It makes you angry. It makes you despair. It makes you depressed. Because all of that will pour into the book and go into the world, and people will read it and say My life has been changed.”