Writer’s Desk: Try Anything

Sometimes you just cannot get started. It all feels wrong. You have a story, a poem, a whole book even, inside you. But it won’t come out.

Don DeLillo was once asked by writer Kae Tempest about the accrual of a certain kind of detail:

In your novels, there is a noticing of the everyday that is so perfectly, so tunefully described that something very usual becomes eerie, oppressive. For example, there’s a line from White Noise where you write ‘On telephone poles all over town there are homemade signs concerning lost dogs and cats, often in the handwriting of a child.’ Which is such a beautiful and usual thing to see, but to suddenly be reminded of it in fiction …

DeLillo tells Tempest where that came from:

I was desperate to begin a novel at that point. I guess it was 1982 or 1983. A long time had passed and I wanted to get back to work. And I just started describing streets and signs on poles. I started noticing them, they were always there, but I not only noticed them, I looked at them, thought about them and thought about the people involved. And that’s how White Noise got started…

It can be that simple. Write whatever you can. Get it down in just the right kind of detail. Keep going. Repeat.

Eventually the story will make itself known.

Screening Room: Docs to Watch Out For

Last week’s online edition of the AFI DOCS film festival featured premieres of several documentaries that will be worth keeping your eyes peeled for later in the year when they hit broader release. I reviewed two of them for The Playlist.

  • 9to5: The Story of a Movement (pictured above): “Even in our supposedly more enlightened times, when people hear the word ‘labor,’ they are likely to conjure up a predictable set of mental images: Burly white guys in hard hats…”
  • White Noise: “A queasily riveting documentary that puts the audience far closer than comfort to some of the worst people in the world…”