A Writer on Novel Writing: Andre Dubus III

Courage, stubbornness, self-delusion–I’m not sure what compels a novelist to commit so much time to his art, but I am in admiration of those writers who go at it, day in and day out, for the joy of the work and the prospect of publication.

Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog, shares with The Atlantic his process of writing novels.  He’s in the dream camp, along with folks like Robert Olen Butler and Eudora Welty.  He doesn’t write to get to the end, but rather he writes to see what will happen.  And for Dubus, the road to discovery is letting go and dreaming:

OK, I know:  It’s one thing to quote Bausch. But what does it fucking mean, “dream with language?” I think this is what happens. Habits of writing can be learned. We can choose concrete language over overly abstract language. We can learn to use active verbs instead of passive verbs. To bring in at least three of the five senses to activate a scene. All these things we can be taught, or learn on our own from reading. These are all part of your toolbox—but that toolbox will always remain locked if the writer is not genuinely curious about what he or she is writing about. To me, that is the essential ingredient. Late in his life, Faulkner was asked what quality a writer most needs—and he said not talent, but curiosity. I know the exact quote by heart: “Insight, curiosity, to wonder, to mull and to muse why it is that man does what he does. And if you have that, talent makes no difference, whether you’ve got it or not.”

Dubus’ article is a comprehensive and articulate peak behind the curtain of creativity.  Find it here.


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