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What You Don’t Know…

by Jonathan 2 Comments

I’ve been feasting on a steady diet of podcasts and articles like a tiger on British Soldiers in Africa and came across some good stuff from Téa Obreht over at The Bat Segundo Show.  I probably would not have given the interview a second thought except that I had seen Obreht’s book, The Tiger’s Wife show up on a couple of blogs I enjoy, A Dribble of Ink and the The Speculative Scotsman. I’d considered seeing if I could find the book at our local library (that would be like winning the lottery) and then kind of left it alone. Checking my podcast subscriptions, I saw Obreht’s name beneath The Bat Segundo Show and thought I ought to give it a listen. The whole interview is enjoyable, but I particularly enjoyed this bit:

Correspondent: But if you’re constantly revising to get that precision, how do you keep yourself in surprise? Because that, of course, is very important to maintain the life of a story.

Obreht: Oh, that just comes normally. Because I have no idea what I’m doing! (laughs)

Correspondent: Yeah. The big thing that nobody really understands. That writers really don’t know what they’re doing often.

Obreht: Yeah. Exactly. You know, you stumble into things. And you’ll be 75% of the way through something and suddenly it’s like, “Oh, I changed my mind! Actually, this is going to happen because it feels more normal, more natural.” Then you have to backtrack and shift everything.

The excerpt from the show stopped before they got to the part I like the most where Obreht talks about forging ahead even when she knew what she had written wasn’t good or needed work, knowing that she could circle back and revisit it when the time was right.

There’s exquisite freedom in giving ourselves permission to be imperfect, to not know.