Junot Diaz on writing

A must-read interview at Narrative (free registration required):

During my college life, I understood that if I wanted to be a writer I had to be rigorous. But I was wrong.


What do you mean, you were wrong?


The one thing I knew very well was my body. I knew how to train the body. I was surrounded by athletes, so they were the metaphor. I saw that nobody could just come off the street and fuck with somebody with five years of training. I assumed that writing was like that. Big mistake. In many ways, writing is nothing like that. It’s something of a mystery, why people get good at writing. With athletes, it’s never a mystery.


What caused you to change your assumptions about writing?


Starting in ’97, something switched in my psychology, some wheel turned, and I found the actual process—creation, writing—to be unbearably painful. It went from being a great comfort to something horrific. It’s extraordinary, what one page takes out of me. Writing just reduces me. I think I’m probably the only person I know who is good at something that causes me tremendous distress.

There is more where that came from. Have fun!

PS:- To give another sample,


Unlike some other writers, you seem to have kept away from writing reviews and criticism. What is your opinion of literary criticism today?


I read it, but I don’t have a holistic sense of it. I don’t participate in the world of reviews and criticism because it would be a conflict of interest.


A conflict of interest?


I’m a striving writer, so am I going to give a good review to someone whose work undermines mine or makes mine look stupid? I could pretend to be incredibly noble and objective, but that would seem like a conflict of interest. I’m suspicious of my ulterior motives. I can’t read my unconscious so I’m almost afraid that, without even knowing it, I’d be biased in ways that would not be useful for a young writer or even an established writer. I only want to promote reading. I’m as critical as the next motherfucker; I guess I just don’t want to put it on paper.

Writers bring an enormous amount of discipline, rigor, training, and intellect to the work. But what’s really providing the energy is the unconscious. Ordinarily, we arm ourselves against that power with the shields of our intelligence and the spheres of our training. But in the end, it’s the unconscious that animates and makes what we do possible.

Did I say must-read?

2 Responses to “Junot Diaz on writing”

  1. Jayan Says:

    Thanks , very interesting.

    But the book wasn’t all that great ( A Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao)


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