Mr. Foer spoke at my university last night. He was amazing. Really, really insightful and articulate. I was so impressed and not really bummed that he didn't read from his work. He said two things by way of advice that really stuck out to me. First, that writing never gets any easier. He said a very wise writer once told him that writing is like pulling teeth.
Out of your penis.
As he promised, it really did make me feel better to hear that writing is still excruciating even with an international best selling book or two under your belt.
He next said that he didn't feel like writers were all that creative compared to other people. We just tend to retain things better. I think that's very smart. Sometimes I feel like an iron trap. Something will happen in front of me (like the hand washing manager lady) and I can't let it go for weeks. It simmers around in my brain until I find a place to write it down and let it free. But when it comes out, it doesn't even feel like me writing it down. I was just some sort of vessel for the words. And I liked that he feels this way, too.
Follow up to Gourevitch: The florist is mentioned in the book. What I found so interesting about it was that Gourevitch, who travels all over the world to write, doesn't use people whose job title is "interpreter." He just goes into villages and finds the one person with the best command of French or English to help him out. He finds these conversations, though sometimes labored, to be more genuine. He also finds that a local person with whom the subject is familiar creates a more relaxing environment for the interview, breaks down a barrier if you will. So that was really interesting to me. The wildness of it all! I think about how sometimes people get nervous being interviewed and try to imagine the further strangeness of a foreigner doing it for a major American publication. I can totally see why using a local friendly face is necessary to get a good sense of trust built up.