Michael Lewis’ perspectives on the writing process

It is by no means an anomaly that two of the best authorities on the writing process, Michael Lewis and Stephen King, are themselves prolific authors of countless bestsellers. The paperbound edition of King’s On Writing is a steal at $7.99 when purchased at Amazon.com. As for Lewis, his own bestsellers include Liar’s Poker, The New New Thing, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity, Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, and most recently, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World. He is currently a contributing editor to Vanity Fair.

Here is a lively and revealing excerpt from an interview of Lewis in Robert Boynton’s The New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft published by Vintage Press (2005). You can purchase the paperbound edition from Amazon for only $10.85.

How Do You Begin Writing?

Fitfully. I’ll write something but it won’t be the beginning of the middle or the end – I’m just getting an idea out on the page. Then, as the words accumulate, I start thinking about how they need to be organized.

[Note: When beginning to write most days, D.H. Lawrence preferred to express himself in a sequence of single sentences in no particular order; he eliminated duplications, added omissions, revised, and then re-ordered into clusters that eventually became paragraphs.]

Is There Any Time of the Day That You Like to Write?

I’ve always written best very early in the morning and very late at night. I write very little in the middle of the day. If I do any work in the middle of the day, it is editing what I have written that morning.

What Would Your Ideal Day Look Like?

Left to my own devices, with no family, I’d start writing at 7 P.M. and stop at 4 A.M. That’s the way I used to write. I liked to get ahead of everybody. I’d think to myself, ‘I’m starting tomorrow’s workday, tonight!’ Late nights are wonderfully tranquil. No phone calls, no interruptions. I like the feeling of knowing that nobody is trying to reach me.

Is There Anywhere You Need to Be In Order to Write?

No, I’ve written in every conceivable circumstance. I like writing in my office, which is an old redwood cabin about a hundred yards from my house in Berkeley. It has a kitchen, a little bedroom, a bathroom, and a living room, which I use as a study. But I’ve written in awful enough situations that I know that the quality of the prose doesn’t depend on the circumstance in which it is composed. I don’t believe the muse visits you. I believe that you visit the muse. If you wait for that ‘perfect moment’ you’re not going to be very productive.”

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