četrtek, 25. april 2013

Mitchell Zuckoff, on how he writes (on "Frozen In Time")

The following is unscrupolously copied from How I Wrote It: Mitchell Zuckoff, on "Frozen In Time" (by Neal Thompson on April 23, 2013, on Amazon. Link here.)
I found it funny and somewhat inspiring. Maybe you'll, too.

When it came time to sit and write, however, the journalist found it difficult to make himself part of the story. /.../ We asked Zuckoff to describe a few details of his writing life.


I write exclusively in a book-filled, 12-foot-square office in my house, at a three-level desk crammed into a corner. On the first level is my keyboard and, to my left, a stack of documents for a book I'm either working on or should be working on. On the second level is the computer monitor, flanked on either side by more stacks of papers and high-tech tools such as scissors and a box of index cards. On the top level, to the left, is a printer, and on the right is an old-fashioned lamp with a green glass shade. From it hangs a boar's tooth necklace I was given in New Guinea. Next to the lamp is a model of the World War II plane I wrote about in Lost in Shangri-La, given to me by a friend, and metal box with an orca tooth and a dollar bill signed by everyone on the Greenland expedition I wrote about in Frozen in Time. The walls are covered with award plaques won by my wife, a photographer with The Boston Globe, along with a few I've won, which reassure me on difficult writing days. The window is on the other side of the room, which is far enough away that I can't throw myself through it on those same tough writing days.

At the risk of sounding like a pretentious git, I never listen to music when I write because I'm trying to hear the rhythm of the words. I once tried listening to jazz and found myself eyeing the window on the other side of the room.

Pretentious git, Part II: When I've reached the point in my research where I"m ready to write at length--weeks on end, usually without missing a day--I make sure I'm downing a lot of protein. Years ago, I read a great piece by Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post about writing and playing high-level sports, and one of the takeaway messages was that my natural tendency to seek a sugar high when sitting at the keyboard was about as useful as eating a bag of M&Ms to run a marathon. Having said that, when I've finished writing for the day (usually very late at night) I reward myself with something sweet, occasionally followed by a glass of port.

When I'm working intensely on a book, I read books that are almost always directly related to what I'm writing--histories, biographies, sometimes technical manuals. To escape my own writing, I read The New Yorker because it cleanses some of the bad writing I'm forced to read and replaces it with beautiful voices in 5,000- to 15,000-word sonatas.

I'm a huge believer in the exercise-nap combo platter. I'm serious. If I exercise early in the day and take a nap, I've got the energy I need to write deep into the night.

I mostly try to avoid questions about my writing process. No, really, I try to avoid everything. I tend to write at night, when the house is quiet, everyone including my dog is asleep, and emails aren't popping into my inbox every minute.

There you have it.

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