I came upon this quote in the January issue of The Believer, in an interview with the writer Ann Enright. Because I'm in the midst of writing a novel, and it so beautifully articulated a truth that I have to keep learning on a daily basis, I typed the passage up this morning, and I'm planning to have it framed and hanging by my computer tonight.
Ms. Enright was asked about her process as she works her way into a new book. Her answer is of interest to screenwriters, too, and for that matter, to any writer trying to craft a piece of work:
"What you have to do is not leave the house. You have to not get up and get some exercise and do some yoga and clear your head. It’s the opposite of that. You start writing, and it falls apart very quickly. And then you have to start again.
In the beginning, you have a plan for a book that everyone will love in various ways. And then you start writing and you realize you have a different kind of book on your hands. And so the easy, the conventional novel, the idea of that novel, falls apart, and you must start writing the thing itself. If you resist and you continue to pursue the easy idea, you get a fake novel, written according to a preordained pattern. The world is full of them.
You have to be less controlling. It’s like getting a herd of sheep across a field. If you try to control them too much, they resist. It’s the same with a book. If you try to control it too much, the book is dead. You have to let it fall apart quite early on and let it start doing its own thing. And that takes nerve, not to panic that the book you were going to write is not the book you will have at the end of the day."