Friday, December 11, 2009
Robert Caro on writing
Apparently I can't get enough of the whole "writers on writing" thing, so here are Robert Caro's thoughts from this month's Esquire (in the "What I've Learned" series). I haven't read his Robert Moses bio or Master of the Senate but I really liked The Path to Power.
Always type out your interviews before you go to bed, so you remember the expressions. Research is fun. Writing is hard. It's so easy to fool yourself into thinking that you're working hard. It's so easy not to write. So you use any trick you can to make yourself know there's work to be done. That's why I wear a jacket and tie when I sit down to write. Every time one of my books comes out, profiles mention that I write on a typewriter that hasn't been manufactured in twenty-five years. And people send me their old Smith-Corona 210's for free. I used to have seventeen spares to cannibalize the parts. I'm down to eleven. Hemingway said, "Always quit for the day when you know what the next sentence is going to be." I do that. There is no bullshit with books. What's on the page is what's on the page. It's either good enough to last or it's not. I live near Columbia, and I see a lot of college students. My best moment was seeing one of these kids carrying Master of the Senate. I could never ask him if he liked it. What if he said "Mehhh, it's not so great. I have to read it for class"? That would kill me. So I never do that.