Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ann Beattie on the Creative Impulse

My stories always seem to begin with something very small ... If I were to say I usually begin with a character, that wouldn't mean that I know the character's occupation or age or whether the character is happy or sad. I would know that the character is named Joe. Yes, sometimes the idea that the character's name is Joe has gotten me to the typewriter. More often it's really a physiological feeling that I should write something. This feeling doesn't always work out.

... I don't know how to talk about this without sounding like Yeats saying that the "Voices" were driving him into a room and dictating to him, but it's almost like that. Something in me has built up, and this is a compulsion to go and write something at the typewriter. It's not totally amorphous. There is something in the back of my mind: a sentence, a sense of remembering what it is like to be in the dead of winter and wanting to go to the beach in the summer, some vague notion like that. It's never more than that. I've never in my life sat down and said to myself, "Now I will write something about somebody to whom such-and-such will happen.

--Ann Beattie, quoted in Alive and Writing: Interviews with American Authors of the 1980s,by Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory, University of Illinois Press, 1987, pp. 55-56.

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