For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the artistic process as much as by an artist’s completed work. Whether it’s interviewing a musician about her craft or reading an essay about the writing life, I’m consistently drawn into the thought process, the equipment used, the joys and frustrations. When I recently came across a Dave Eggers column (which is not recent) about his own writing process, I knew I was in for something worthwhile.
I first read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius back in 2000. His memoir is tragic, manic, hilarious, disconcerting, and emotional. It’s also my favorite book. I’ll never forget the impact of that first time through an Eggers novel, and it’s a journey I’ve taken several times since.
A Heartbreaking Work, winner of the Pulitzer for non-fiction in 2000, was the first of several celebrated releases by Eggers. What is the What won the Prix Médicis, Zeitoun won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and his latest, A Hologram for the King, was a finalist for the National Book Award. He wrote the screenplays for Away We Go and Where the Wild Things Are, and he also founded McSweeney’s, which if you don’t know, is a source for wonderful literary things of all shades.
I write all of this not only because I greatly admire Eggers, but because he’s a remarkable writer. This is important because to read his take on “the writing life” is to get a glimpse into something rather unremarkable. Despite the awards on the bio, a peek behind the curtain reveals an ordinary man with an ordinary routine sitting at an ordinary work space dealing with ordinary struggles. In short, Dave Eggers is human. Here’s the article. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
And here is where I spend seven or eight hours at a stretch. Seven or eight hours each time I try to write. Most of that time is spent stalling, which means that for every seven or eight hours I spend pretending to write—sitting in the writing position, looking at a screen—I get, on average, one hour of actual work done. It’s a terrible, unconscionable ratio.