But I’m also daydreaming the rest of the day when I’m not writing, about where the story’s going to go and what I’m going to do with it, so that when I’m halfway through the story, I usually will have envisioned where it’s going and how it’s going to sound and what will happen before I actually write it. The only thing I’m thinking up when I’m writing are the actual words. I’m not thinking up what happens, because I already know that.
SL: Sure. So you’re not necessarily thinking as you’re writing? It’s more opening yourself up to this flow or this voice so that it all comes through?
CB: Yeah. But that’s thought too. I mean you’re never not thinking. Stuart Dybek once said to me, “Writing is thinking.” And I think he’s right about that. It’s just a different kind of thought. Thinking is not all of one kind. And when you’re imagining events and imagining words and trying to find the right words, you know, that’s thought. I don’t know exactly what to call it — we don’t have good words for this, the process you go into. Certainly it’s thought, it’s imagining, it’s feeling — it’s all of those things. But it’s something else. It’s something you don’t necessarily do in the rest of your life.
SL: That makes sense. I’ve really enjoyed reading your nonfiction about writing, you know, most of Burning Down the House and The Art of Subtext. And I found I was pretty much in accord with basically everything you were saying. And then when it came to applying it to my own writing, I found I would get into thought patterns, you know, like, “How do I use objects in this situation?” or “How do I avoid the cliché epiphany here?”