Wednesday, April 14, 2010

McEwan On Process

Ian McEwan, during his visit to San Francisco to promote Solar, was on KQED’s Forum with Michael Krasny this morning, and he responded to a few questions I asked about craft and process. I’ve transcribed his compelling response here:

“My important bit of process is hesitation. If I get an idea, I sit on it. I don’t do anything with it. If it’s a good idea on Monday, it better be a good idea three Mondays later. And often it isn’t. What can seem like a fantastic idea one end of the week, will fade by the other end. So I am a great hesitator, I pause, I brood. Sometimes I don’t even allow myself to take notes about a scene that I’m going to write because I don’t want to start crystallizing it into words. So I carry a lot around in my mind. I am someone who can sit by the delayed luggage carousel for twenty-five minutes quite happily just turning over the stuff that’s there; I don’t need a notebook.

On the other hand . . . I’m a great one for writing the opening paragraph for novels I need never actually complete. Knowing I don’t have to write them confers a great deal of freedom on me. And I’ve started one or two novels that way recently, just idly turning out a sentence or a paragraph that intrigued me.”

A link to the full audio mp3 of the program is available here.

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