What I Learned from Anthony Doerr

Depending on what study you go by, Seattle is the first or second most literate city in America. This is thanks in part to the number of wonderful independent bookstores and civic organizations who bring authors to read.

Last week, Elliott Bay Books partnered with Seattle Arts & Lectures to bring Anthony Doerr to speak. I attended and live-tweeted the lecture. Doerr, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, titled his talk, “Some Thoughts on Artistic Failure in 6 Parts.” Here are some of the highlights:

1.

Doerr once spent all day reworking one paragraph of All the Light We Cannot See. He researched each detail of the paragraph and thought about each sentence, only to cut it down to one small sentence.

2.

It can sometimes be more desirable to fail. That is to say, failure helps artists to play and explore the mysteries of life. If we are so hung up on success, we don’t take risks. Doerr quoted Ray Bradbury, saying “You only fail if you stop writing.” More broadly, we could apply this to any artistic or business endeavor. I was reminded of our first Book of the Month, Mindset, which says much of the same thing.

3.

Getting the facts right is so important to Doerr because he doesn’t want to lose a reader, or break their concentration on the story. He’ll take whole afternoons to make sure he has a word right in order to create a totally immersive experience.

4.

Doerr says he doesn’t have a satisfying answer for why he chose to make Marie-Laure blind in All the Light We Cannot See. Partly it is because his office is near a center for blind people in Boise, Idaho. But it is also because it was a challenge to write using other senses besides sight.

If you have the chance to see Anthony Doerr speak, jump on it! Until then, pick up All the Light We Cannot See!


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Written by

Mark Pearson

Mark Pearson

Mark is a cofounder of Libro.fm. He lives in Seattle where he enjoys running in the rain, playing tennis when the sun makes an appearance, over and undercooking food, and reading The New York Times on paper.

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