Interview with Lorrie Moore

I loved reading this recent interview with writer Lorrie Moore. There was so much I needed to hear, first of all … and I admire and love her writing so much. And anyone who faces awkward stressful situations by asking herself, “What would Goldie Hawn do?” is pretty much my idol. Because that question can ONLY lead to social grace and humor … and I am going to take it on myself, whenever I feel tense.

And the following quote has somehow set me free, I don’t even know how else to say it:

“I was obsessive with writing, but I wasn’t ever disciplined. Because if you’re obsessive you don’t need discipline. You just do it all the time. Why would you impose a regimen, when this is your love?”

Someday I’ll explain what is going on in my life right now, but as I’ve said many times before, maybe 5% of my actual life is on my blog – I feel no need to upend my daily experience here, I’m not that kind of blogger – mostly everything is offline – but that one quote from Lorrie Moore, about discipline/obsessiveness rings SO true … and will be something I keep in mind when I experience self-doubt, or when I take on the world’s opinion about what work means, as opposed to my own experience of it. Brilliant. In such a culture that we live in, that places a high premium on visible achievement – writing every day can seem like a lazy thing to do. It’s like the people who say, when they hear how much I read, “How do you find the time??” I’ve gone off on the “I don’t have enough time” attitude before. If you want to read more, you make the time. It’s that simple. Same as anything else. If you can’t make the time, then it’s not a priority – other things are priorities – and that’s okay. If you want to exercise, you make the time. I will not take the “I don’t have enough time” excuse – EVER. I say this as someone who feels tormented by not having enough time. But that’s the thing: most pet peeves seem to come from people who have a bit of that behavior in themselves. (I mean, some people would never admit that, but those people are self-righteous jagoffs, and we don’t need to pay attention to them!) Something is either a priority for you or it’s not. I wish we could let ourselves off the hook more, when it comes to such questions. If you can say to yourself, “Okay, you know what? I really wish I was more in shape – but right now in my life, it’s just not a priority. There are only so many hours in the day and I would rather do such and such … and so I have to admit to myself that fitness is not a priority. Maybe that will change, but right now, it’s not.” As opposed to feeling harassed by the lack of time, and always behind or wrong. Being a bit more gentle with yourself, in terms of your time, and how you choose to spend it. Same thing with reading. To me, reading is always a priority. And I’m a busy woman. Sometimes I am only able to read a page or two a day, but I always have a book in my bag. I read in line at the movie theatre, I read on the bus, I read in the elevator – I sometimes even read while walking down the street. It’s not something I choose to do – I just always make time. There are other activities that I want to take on – but I know it’s not a priority right now – I have other things going on that take precedent, so I’m not going to torment myself with wondering why I can’t do it all. I mean, I DO torment myself … but I try to talk myself out of that clocktower when I find myself there. I have enough self-loathing to deal with. No need to pile it on.

Lorrie Moore’s comment about not needing discipline to write really resonates with me. It is another thing I do every day … I do not need to remind myself, I do not need to keep a schedule, I just do it. It is obsessive. It keeps me stable, first of all … but it’s also just part of the warp and weft of my life, and I’ve been doing it since I could first pick up a pencil.

Now. To take that obsession and turn it into something. That’s the artist’s job. That’s when you become conscious. But the discipline thing, at least, I don’t have to worry about.

Lorrie Moore is one of my favorite present-day writers, and I am looking forward to the new edition of her collected stories.

I also loved her comment about her ex-husband:

“It was easy to be a writer around him. Like, right now, I’m seeing somebody else and that’s not easy, because he’s scouring the work for signs of him. But my husband never really did that. It’s good to have someone who is mildly interested and mildly proud, and also slightly uninterested. When I was in graduate school, I had a teacher who said to me, women writers should marry somebody who thinks writing is cute.” She smiles. “Because if they really realised what writing was, they would run a mile.”

If you haven’t encountered Lorrie Moore, I cannot recommend her strongly enough.

A couple posts I have written about Moore:

Birds of America – The story “Willing”
Birds of America – The story ‘Terrific Mother’
One of my favorite writers

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15 Responses to Interview with Lorrie Moore

  1. David says:

    “most pet peeves seem to come from people who have a bit of that behavior in themselves. (I mean, some people would never admit that, but those people are self-righteous jagoffs, and we don’t need to pay attention to them!)”

    I don’t know if it takes a keen psychological eye to recognize the hilarity of those two statements back to back, but I almost spit out my coffee. And yes, I’m self-appointing myself a keen psychological eye.

    And that comment about the ex husband is so brill. Maria has always been slightly uninterested in acting. It used to drive me crazy and make me think we were incompatible and now I see, it’s one of the reasons we’ve made it so far. So far. Not like in so very far but like in, until now.

  2. Emily says:

    I love the thoughts about discipline. It sucks. Well, I think so mostly because I suck at it. Whenever writing has been a job, whenever I’ve had a deadline, suddenly it becomes this…thing. A torment. Something I have to do as opposed to something I love to do. That’s why I never pursued it professionally outside of freelance and spec writing. Deadlines and discipline. Screw them.

  3. red says:

    Emily – didn’t Douglas Adams have a great comment about deadlines??

  4. Emily says:

    “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.”

  5. red says:

    Ha!! I knew you’d know it!

  6. Emily says:

    Talk about a guy with deadline issues! He was one of those writers who was never finished. He never sat back and went “there. It’s done.” He always had to tinker and adjust. His publishers used to literally send couriers over to his house to sieze chapters from his hands.

  7. David says:

    Let me add, in all fairness, and in the obvious deafening silence, I too have a HUGE pet peeve about self-righteous jagoffs.

    Now where is that mirror.

  8. red says:

    David – obvious deafening silence hahahahahahahaha

    No!! I admit ALL that you say! But that’s the difference! I admit it! Still, it does make me laugh to see those statements back to back.

    Really the question is: can our friendship even continue in the face of this obvious deafening silence?

    We can work it out tonight at Mustang Sally’s!

  9. David says:

    Clearly the question remains, as always: Is there love?

    The whole thing reminds me of, what I thought would be a brilliant T-Shirt saying, but everyone just looks at me like I have two-heads:

    “Don’t judge, it’s bad.”

    I need to make that t-shirt, it’s the story of my psychological life.

  10. David says:

    I think this might be funnier:

    “Don’t judge me, if you do you’re an asshole!”

    I know, this has nothing to do with the original post. This is why I don’t comment. I should get my own blog.

  11. red says:

    hahahaha I actually want that T shirt!

    And if you ever stop commenting, I’ll go ballistic. Mitchell’s been commenting from the shores of Morocco – so so can you!!

  12. David says:

    I’ll never stop commenting. I’d even start my own blog but I just don’t seem to have the time.

  13. melissa says:

    “If you can’t make the time, then it’s not a priority – other things are priorities – and that’s okay.”

    I needed this today. I’m going to post it on my mirror.

  14. red says:

    David – hahahahaha!!!

  15. Diana says:

    (I want one of the T-shirts.)

    I have adopted this attitude when it comes to housework and it’s calming. I live next door to people who have the home improvement channels running 24/7 (and that’s no exaggeration; my son has spent the night there numerous times and he reports that the shows are never switched off) and they are always renovating their lovely home. I’m proud when I finally get to vacuuming the dog hair. When the youngest child (7) comes in and wrinkles her nose in disgust, saying something disparaging about the state of the house, I’ve taken to giving a blank stare and vague smile because I KNOW that no one over there has read Homer and I made time for that. (I mean that not in a judgemental way; I don’t think I’m better for having read Homer. I’m just proud of myself, more so than I would be for having lovely drapes or whatever.)

    And to David: I tend to ramble in the comments over here even though I HAVE a blog of my own. I don’t know what it is but it’s not just you. :)

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