John Irving: On Writing

John Irving

  1. I am compulsive about writing, I need to do it the way I need sleep and exercise and food and sex; I can go without it for a while, but then I need it.
  2. I resented having to teach and coach, not because I disliked teaching or coaching or wrestling but because I had no time to write.
  3. Along the (writing) way accidents happen, detours get taken… But these are not “divine” accidents; I don’t believe in those. I believe you have constructive accidents en route through a novel only because you have mapped a clear way. If you have confidence that you have a clear direction to take, you always have confidence to explore other ways; if they prove to be mere digressions, you’ll recognize that and make the necessary revisions. The more you know about a book, the freer you can be to fool around. The less you know, the tighter you get.
  4. I’m old-fashioned, a storyteller. I’m not an analyst and I’m not an intellectual.
  5. I write very quickly; I rewrite very slowly. It takes me nearly as long to rewrite a book as it does to get the first draft. 
  6. You bet I write disaster fiction. We have compiled a disastrous record on this planet, a record of stupidity and absurdity and self-abuse and self-aggrandizement and self-deception and pompousness and self-righteousness and cruelty and indifference beyond what any other species has demonstrated the capacity for, which is the capacity for all the above.
  7. I am not attracted to writers by style. What style do Dickens, Grass, and Vonnegut have in common? How silly! I am attracted to what makes them angry, what makes them passionate, what outrages them, what they applaud and find sympathetic in human beings and what they detest about human beings, too. They are writers of great emotional range.

Excerpts taken from The Paris Review Image from The New York Times 

 compiled by Amanda Patterson

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