Several Advocate writers had the opportunity to attend a journalism conference this weekend, presented by Mayborn School of Journalism. On Saturday evening after dinner, we were treated to a presentation by investigative reporter and 1965 Woodrow Wilson High School grad Lawrence Wright — who I, for one, have always wanted to meet.
Wright won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for his book, “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11,” and recently released “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief,” which is also a national bestseller.
Wright talked at length about his work, including both of the aforementioned bestsellers, as well as an overview of one of his earlier books, “Remembering Satan: A Tragic Case of Recovered Memory,” which sounds intensely fascinating.
He offered some pro tips about his writing process. My favorite example was when he compared writing to dieting:
“Everybody knows what it takes to lose weight. You eat fewer calories, you cut down on the fried foods, avoid the carbohydrates, and by the way get a little exercise. These truths are universally known, so why do so many of us struggle with our weight? Why is there this ongoing epidemic of obesity? OK, some people don’t get fat and some people can’t get thin, so genes play a role. But for most of us, dieting requires persistence, discipline, abstinence, pain, longing, some degree of masochism, and an impressive ability to handle frustration. Writing is like that — at least good writing. The writer we want to see in the mirror is muscular and confident. He can handle himself in a fight. He’s lean and shapely, but also mentally quick. Natural grace is at his command. Bad writing is bloated, clumsy, soft and aimless. It moves slowly and occupies too much space. It begs for your attention. It loves to hear itself talk. You don’t want to be sitting next to it on an airplane.”
In short, Wright’s recipe for success is hard work and sheer genius.
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