Nicole Krauss on writing

Robert Birnbaum sent around a link to his 2010 interview with Nicole Krauss (author of Great House) and I found it fascinating.  In particular, I found Krauss’s thoughts on writing intriguing.  The exchange below offers insight into why writers write; what makes them tick to use a cliché:

Cover of "Great House: A Novel"
Cover of Great House: A Novel

RB: Do you challenge yourself? For instance, do you set yourself to write about things that you haven’t written before or in a way that you haven’t previously? Ideas first or the process?

NK: For me writing is a long process of wandering and getting lost. I have no sense at all, setting out, what I am going to write. I think that will always, more or less, be the nature of my process. I can’t imagine being the type of writer who has a blueprint or a plan in advance that I more or less follow. Setting out, everything has to be unknown. I find that this allows very interesting and unexpected things to happen. It becomes an intuitive process, discoveries are made. That’s why writing has held my interest all these years, why it remains one of the only things in life that doesn’t finally bore me. If I knew what I was going to make in advance, and was equipped with all of the insight in advance, why would I pursue the project?

RB: This way of looking at things or being seems to be at odds with the planning for and of nurturing of children. Organization and planning are a great part of parenting

NK: Right.

RB: Is writing like bungee-cord jumping for you?

NK: I’m not sure what that means. But planning is certainly part of parenting. But intuitively responding to one’s child as he changes is even more critical. Being open to who he is, what there might be to learn from him, and how it might be possible to help him find the most comfortable way to live in the world as himself.

RB: What I am trying to get at is—I am not well organized, I always forget something—

NK: I understand. Life is filled with so many responsibilities, and limitations to who and what we can be. Unfortunately life is not an endless exercise in self-reinvention. You become who you are. You are formed by forces that bring you up into the world and you change, but not in epic or monumental ways, I don’t think. Or not very often, at least. Writing has always been for me the opposite of that. In my work I can become anyone. Inhabit any character. I can express all kinds of things that I might not otherwise think or be able to express. Everything is possible. That can be terrifying, but ultimately I think it’s thrilling and is the reason I continue to write.


Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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