FIVE QUESTIONS FOR PETER HYMAN
by Mira Ptacin
March 1, 2011
Laughter is Safer
Author Peter Hyman on the best delivery vehicle for “truth”
1. What is your writing routine?
After doing everything I can to avoid writing (this includes: making the perfect scrambled egg for my oldest son’s breakfast, checking various web sites that have no relevance to my daily life, reading the newspaper, re-organizing my comic book collection and making sure my dog’s coat is well brushed) I get started writing at 10 a.m. When I am working on a book-length project, I try to reach a certain word count each day (usually in the range of 1500 words). Sometimes I achieve it. Sometimes I spend 8 hours on one lousy sentence. Of late, I’ve had a day job so I have to find time to write during odd hours. Having a toddler and a newborn is a wonderful way to ensure one doesn’t sleep much, so the birth of my two sons has been helpful in terms of finding writing moments.
2. What is your definition of “truth” in terms of writing creative nonfiction?
I’m not so sure there is such a thing as “truth” when it comes to writing nonfiction because, by the very act of remembering and reporting something that actually happened, we are altering that set of facts and bending them to fit the broader goal of telling a story. I suppose it comes down to intentions. That said, the best writing obviously comes when a writer makes every effort to be as emotionally honest as possible. I tend to hide behind humor because laughter feels safe, but the pieces where I simply lay things bare are much more powerful. They are also the scariest to put into the world.
3. What is the biggest nemesis to your creative spirit?
Fear of failure and a nagging inability to let go of the past. Regret–it’s a debilitating disease.
4. What do you hope people take away from your writing?
I just hope that people read my writing in the first place. If they do not feel the immediate urge to start a lawsuit, that’s nice as well.
5. What writers have inspired you most, and why?
Dead: Hemingway, Steinbeck, Twain, H.S. Thompson, Jonathan Swift, Orwell, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf.
Living: Sam Lipsyte, Jonathan Lethem, Zadie Smith, Nicole Krauss, James Salter, Colson Whitehead, Joan Didion
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