writers on writing

32 articles
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The Walking Cure

On Cheryl Strayed and why Wild became a hit.

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Stephen King: The Rolling Stone Interview

The author on why he belives in God (“It makes things better”), the perils of writing high (“Annie Wilkes is cocaine, she was my number-one fan”) and what he thinks of other writers (“Hemingway sucks, basically”).

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The Price of Black Ambition

“I am having a moment, but I only want more. I need more. I cannot merely be good enough because I am chased by the pernicious whispers that I might only be ‘good enough for a black woman.’”

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Why I Write

An essay on motivation.

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Nadine Gordimer: The Art of Fiction No. 77

“I come to America, I go to England, I go to France…nobody’s at risk. They’re afraid of getting cancer, losing a lover, losing their jobs, being insecure. … It’s only in my own country that I find people who voluntarily choose to put everything at risk—in their personal life.”

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Maya Angelou: The Art of Fiction No. 119

“But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth. Not superficial costs—anybody can have that—I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like. I’m just telling a very simple story.”

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Lorrie Moore: The Art of Fiction No. 167

“A story is a kind of biopsy of human life.”

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My Life as a Writer

An interview with Philip Roth on his career, his critics, and his retirement, which he began by re-reading his 31 books to "see whether I’d wasted my time."

More from the Longform archive: writers on writing.

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Structure

The art of shaping a magazine article.

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Doris Lessing: The Art of Fiction No. 102

INTERVIEWER: I imagine that people try to set you up as some sort of guru, whether political or metaphysical.

LESSING: I think people are always looking for gurus. It’s the easiest thing in the world to become a guru. It’s quite terrifying.

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Playboy Interview: Vladimir Nabokov

The author on Lolita, his work habits, and what he expected from his literary afterlife.

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A Teacher and Her Student

An interview with novelist Marilynne Robinson, conducted by a graduating student.

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Interview: Renata Adler

“I never attacked anyone weak. Only bullies, secure in their courts, bureacracies, fifedoms.”

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Politics and the English Language

“Modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.”

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Money

The economics of being a young writer.

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The Ghost Writes Back

Confessions of a Sweet Valley High ghostwriter.

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George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year

“For people who pay close attention to the state of American fiction, he has become a kind of superhero.”

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Joan Didion: The Art of Nonfiction No. 1

I can’t ask anything. Once in a while if I’m forced into it I will conduct an interview, but it’s usually pro forma, just to establish my credentials as somebody who’s allowed to hang around for a while. It doesn’t matter to me what people say to me in the interview because I don’t trust it.
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Kurt Vonnegut: The Art of Fiction No. 64

This interview with Kurt Vonnegut was originally a composite of four interviews done with the author over the past decade. The composite has gone through an extensive working over by the subject himself, who looks upon his own spoken words on the page with considerable misgivings . . . indeed, what follows can be considered an interview conducted with himself, by himself.
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Jack Kerouac: The Art of Fiction No. 41

An interview on craft:

Writing The Subs in three nights was really a fantastic athletic feat as well as mental, you shoulda seen me after I was done...I was pale as a sheet and had lost fifteen pounds and looked strange in the mirror.

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John McPhee: The Art of Non-Fiction No. 3

An interview with McPhee on his writing process, how he got his start at The New Yorker, and why he never understood how New Journalism could be called a revolution. “Anytime I was called a New Journalist I winced a little with embarrassment.”

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Envy

She is an unknown struggling writer. Her boyfriend is Jonathan Franzen.

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The Hardy Boys: The Final Chapter...

On writing what you loathe. Leslie McFarlane, ghostwriter of the early Hardy Boys novels, was so ashamed of the work he couldn’t even bring himself to name the books in his diary. “June 9, 1933: Tried to get at the juvenile again today but the ghastly job appalls me.”

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Gay Talese, The Art of Nonfiction No. 2

The original new journalist on his start at the Times, his daily writing routine, and why he’s always taken notes on shirt boards.

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The Story Behind a Nonfiction Novel

In January 1966–the same month In Cold Blood was first published–Truman Capote sat down with George Plimpton to discuss the new art form he liked to call “creative journalism.”