We learn from other books. When younger writers only want to write and not read, I worry that their books will lack the depth that literature’s history supplies.
her. True or false, it doesn’t matter: It’s about motivation and desire. No one can motivate a book into existence, if the writer isn’t keen or not really feeling it. It’s the same in all of the arts: Makers execute their work with questions, hopes, illusions, with style and craft, fretting about its value. No one can know that. The maker absolutely can’t. As Marcel Duchamp has said, the public decides its value and meaning later. Aware of this, artists and writers go on. It’s a job you give yourself, and because of that you can’t expect any support.
they do. Also, my characters’ motives or reasons are ruled as much by, or more by, their unconscious feelings. They don’t necessarily know why they do what they do or what they feel. What I want is for readers to see that, to live with their doubt, their uncertainty, and it’s my job to let the reader into them.
century, Two Serious Ladies. Virginia Woolf detailed her fears, worries about her books in her diaries. She also wrote, “Books continue each other.” That’s a brilliant truth. And it is why reading is the most important thing for a writer to do. We learn from other books. When younger writers only want to write and not read, I worry that their books will lack the depth that literature’s history supplies. It enters the writing ineffably.
I wonder at my drive to write. Ever since I was eight years old, that’s what I wanted—to be a writer. And that wish, want, hope shaped me, probably saved me. Like many people, I am subject to depression and, when I was ten, I recognized its colonization. Wanting to write, I had something to live for. Without it, I would have been lost.
And I write, whenever and wherever I can, when I need to, when something moves or arrests me: a memory, funny story, a new, delicious word, a stranger’s intriguing gesture. and then I know where I am.
Lynne Tillman is a novelist, short story writer, and cultural critic. Her novels are Haunted Houses; Motion Sickness; Cast in Doubt; No Lease on Life, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and American Genius, A Comedy. Her nonfiction books include The Velvet Years: Warhol’s Factory 1965–1967, with photographs by Stephen Shore; Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co.; and What Would Lynne Tillman Do?, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and an Andy Warhol/Creative Capital Arts Writing Fellowship. Tillman is Professor/Writer-in-Residence in the Department of English at The University of Albany and teaches at the School of Visual Arts’ Art Criticism and Writing MFA Program in New York. She lives in Manhattan with bass player David Hofstra.