When you’re writing, how conscious of audience are you?
Not much. I write to please myself, which is not to say that I don’t care if others read it. Here’s the thing—if I could imagine a smarter reader than myself, then I’d be smarter than I am. And if I could imagine a more sensitive reader than myself, I’d be more sensitive than I am. Those are my limits. But at those limits, if I think something I’ve written is something I would enjoy reading, I’m pleased. I can’t wear myself out second-guessing some phantom reader.
How do the processes of working on a short story or novel or memoir differ from one another, for you? Is there any difference once you’ve actually sat down and begun to work?
In the process itself, no, not really. The great thing about writing a short story is that you know the damn thing’s going to end—no time soon, perhaps, but you can see the horizon. But then you’re also thinking, Oh no, when I get there I’m going to have to call another world into existence. The beauty of working in a longer form is that, though you can’t always see the horizon, and usually don’t, you are returning to the same world day after day, enriching it and deepening it. But there’s always the anxiety—My God, I haven’t finished anything in years. Will I ever do this or will lightning strike me dead before I finish, and will all this time and work be wasted? I have great admiration for people who spend ten, fifteen, twenty years on a single piece of work, the courage and fortitude it takes to do that.