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Who's in the Video

Tim O’Brien

Tim O'Brien is an American novelist. His books include the National Book Award-winning "Going After Cacciato" (1978), as well as his debut novel, "If I Die in a Combat Zone,[…]

Writing never gets easier, but there are certain mistakes writers can learn to avoid.

Question: What is your working method like?

Tim O’Brien: I write every day.  I get up around 5:00 or so and get two little kids off to school, and then I go to work around 9:00 and work until 4:00 or so.  And then do it pretty much every da

Question: What is your working method rnlike?

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Tim O’Brien: I write every day.  I get up around 5:00 or so and get two little kids offrn tornschool, and then I go to work around 9:00 and work until 4:00 or so.  And then do it pretty much every day.

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Question: Does the work ever get any rneasier?

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Tim O’Brien: Oh, I wish.  Norn it doesn’t get any easier.  It gets harder, in rnfact, because you can’t write the samernbook, and that’s always tempting. rnThe making of sentences is hard work.  You rncan’t copy your own sentences and you can’t copy thosernof others, and so you’re searching for a certain grace and a certain rnrhythm andrnmelody that’s underneath the prose that carries the story.

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Question: What mistakes do you try to rnavoid in writing?

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Tim O’Brien: Great question. rn The first answer that pops to my head is absolutism,rncertainty.  I am certain about veryrnlittle in this world and I distrust those who are.  Ifrn I feel the stink and the smell of blinders and ofrnpomposity and pretentiousness that for me accompanies certainty—a littlern bitrnof hypocrisy also weaves its way through absolutism.  Andrn there’s so much of it around, it’s on television, everyrntalk show seems to have it.  And inrnthe real world, I’m always encountering people who declare things about rnthernworld I live in with a certainty that I just don’t see around me.  And in my writing, that shows.  That’srn why the issue of truth appearsrnso much throughout all of my books, that I’m skeptical of what’s rndeclared to berntrue.

Recorded March 22, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen