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2005-05-27 - 12:18 p.m.

Chang Rae-Lee, when he was working on one of his novels, made a sign out of cardboard (I'm adding the cardboard part) and hung it above his desk. It said, "Language." It's true, that guy does write honey.

He said this in an interview, advice to young novelists:

"Don't listen to anyone else. It's great to get opinions and advice, but you need to follow the particular private passion or obsession that you have for a story and follow it, giving no quarter to anything else. In the end, that's where writers come up with something unique."

Easier said than done, sure. You've got to get on the right train first. Amazing, when I read interviews with writers, how many of them say their first novel failed, that it was a necessary step before writing their second one. What a big thing, the novel. For me, and I don't have plans to write one anytime soon, I think it would feel like trying to draw a map of a big island when you're standing in the middle of it.

The university has a big quad that nobody ever uses, not even for pick-up soccer games. So yesterday, around six-thirty, the sky cloudless, the sun a foot above the horizon, I sat right in the middle of this field of immaculate, manicured grass out of an English manor and worked for a while. Felt good. I watched people walk across on the diagonal concrete walkways. I saw a lot of Muslim women. They all wore white headscarves. Today, when it cools down, I'm going to do the same thing, but this time with music and a bunch of instrumental CDs. Dave Brubeck may come along.

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