“Take the Time, Get it Right.”

The latest Nieman Foundation Speaker Series lecture features Chris Jones (“Roger Ebert: The Essential Man“) in conversation with Gay Talese (“Frank Sinatra Has a Cold“) about the art and craft of narrative nonfiction. The lessons that Talese offers are useful for writers of all kinds.

As we face pressure to produce more, and more quickly, in order to meet the incessant demands for novelty and immediacy, it’s worth remembering that what makes for great writing involves what Jones astutely characterizes as a process that is “designed to slow you down.” Things like:

  • Go there.
  • Hang around.
  • Look. Really look.
  • Make a good impression.
  • Don’t take notes.
  • Let them rephrase.
  • Notice minor characters.
  • Don’t over-describe.
  • Write multiple drafts.
  • Write in scenes.
  • Take your time.

As Talese says, “I don’t think you’re ever wasting your time when you think you’re wasting your time.”

You may not have the time or the budget to do all of these things for your next piece, but try to work one or two of them into your schedule. Tap the brakes a little, generate some friction, and see if any light comes from the heat.

Author: Paul Lagasse

Paul Lagasse provides expert-to-expert communications services to nonprofit, business, and government clients in the metro Baltimore-DC area. Specialties include science and medical writing, technical report editing, and content marketing.