The main thing about writing is… writing. Sitting your butt down in the chair and doing the work.
I'm ashamed and embarrassed to say that I've read very little of David Foster Wallace's work. It's a huge gap in my education, one of many.
The smartest thing I did in law school: asking my future wife to go out dancing with me. The smartest thing I did when practicing law: quitting. The smartest thing I've done in writing: following my own head and writing what I wanted to write, and nothing but.
I think if you spend much time dwelling on influence you can get self-conscious about every line you write. That's a great way to freeze up.
After Bush was elected in 2004 – please note that I didn't say 're-elected' – and I was walking around in my befuzzed state of confusion and low-grade depression, I set out more or systematically to read writers who'd grappled with that fundamental question of what America is, why it is the way it is.
I think I was lucky to come of age in a place and time – the American South in the 1960s and '70s – when the machine hadn't completely taken over life. The natural world was still the world, and machines – TV, telephone, cars – were still more or less ancillary, and computers were unheard of in everyday life.
I took two fiction-writing courses in college and majored in literature. I felt that I had a knack though I wouldn't go so far as to call it a talent. But it scared me. I felt it was a childish thing wanting to write and that I would forget about it eventually.