Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Writing with your eyes closed.

There was an obituary in “The New York Times” yesterday of a writer I had only scarcely heard of, Kent Haruf.

Haruf (rhymes with Sheriff) wrote fiction, which I seldom read. He wrote a book called “Plainsong” in 1999 at the age of 56. It was nominated for a National Book Award. And though he’d been writing for over 30 years, he was suddenly an “overnight success.”

What I particularly liked about the obit was how Haruf wrote—his process. There’s something those of us who sit in subway-quiet open-plan work spaces can learn from.

I quote (and excise) from the “Times.”

“Kent Haruf pulled a wool cap over his eyes when he sat down at his manual typewriter each morning so that he could “write blind,” fully immersing himself in the fictitious small town in eastern Colorado where he set a series of quiet, acclaimed novels…Punctuation, capitalization, paragraphs — they waited for the second draft. The first usually came quickly, a stream of imagery and dialogue that ran to the margins, single-spaced.”
Here’s the best part of writing blind, according to Haruf.
“It takes away the terror when you’re blind and you can’t go back and rewrite a sentence. It calls for storytelling, not polishing.”

By the way, I looked online to see if I could find a photo of Haruf at his manual typewriter with his woolen cap pulled over his eyes. I'd pay to see a video of it, or his sloppily typed manuscripts.

But, I gather, there is no such imagery. Or at least I couldn't find any.

It's a private thing Haruf did. 

Shockingly, he kept it private.

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