I was reading the latest issue of Writer’s Digest (I highly recommend you try a subscription to this mag — it usually contains good writing and promo tips for authors plus interviews with authors) and came across an interview with Andre Dubus III, who wrote The House of Sand and Fog (among many others). The film based on that book was an Oscar nominee. The book itself was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Dubus is a larger-than-life kinda guy. Boston brawler born, who looks like the literary love child of John Mellencamp and Kurt Russell (that’s Zachary Petit’s description and I agree), he’s comfortable sharing a laugh and a pint as well as writing these intensely dark and poignant stories that leave us wrung out, alone, and wondering where the good is in being human. He taps the deep and lives his truth, which may be why his writing resonates with so many.
How does he do it? I like to find out about other writers’ processes. That is, the actual mechanical things they do to prepare for a writing session. Here’s Dubus’ process, from the article in Writer’s Digest:
“Andre Dubus III is both artist and businessman. It’s methodical: Every morning, Dubus wakes up and takes his kids to school (he lives in Massachusetts with his wife, who is a professional dancer, and two of his three children). He returns home. It’s empty of everyone except the dog. He takes a cup of black dark roast coffee down to the basement, where he’s built a 5-by-11 sound-proofed room. He sits at a desk in front of a blank wall, types the previous day’s longhand writing into the computer, then turns the machine off. He sharpens a pencil with a knife, reads three or four poems — for ‘the high bar of language that poets always give us prose writers’ — and then stares at the page.
‘I try to put myself in a state of openness and receptivity and not try to say anything and not think it, but dream it. And then I pick up where I left off.’
He writes for two to three hours, goes to the gym to clear his head (he still works out ‘like a demon’), and that’s it.
When it comes to creating a piece of writing, Dubus believes the story has to percolate in our mind — and that you shouldn’t write it too early.
‘There’s a profound difference between making something up and imagining it,’ he says. ‘Imagining it instead is falling into your psyche, your imagination, and finding some aspiring writer asks him a career question, he says he gets uncomfortable — he’s happy to help, but wants to know if the person has done the real work first: painstakingly crafted the words.”
From “Meet the Real Andre Dubus III,” by Zachary Petit (Writer’s Digest, July/August 2012), p. 43.
The interview itself is not available on the Writer’s Digest site unless you’re a subscriber (it’s in the print version, though), but you can get some of Dubus’ other words of wisdom from the site HERE.
So, writers. What’s your process? Does it seem to work? Would you change it if you thought it would open new windows for you? Just curious.