More from Jimmy Carter on writing
The former president responds to reader questions
Published: March 1, 2004
|During our interview with former President Jimmy Carter (see January 2004), the former president agreed to answer a few writing questions from our readers. Here are his responses.|
So it's 5 in the morning and you're sitting in front of your computer monitor and the page is blank and nothing's happening between your brain and your fingertips. Has this ever happened to you? If so, how do you overcome the nothingness? If this hasn't happened, why not? Is it because you've outlined or planned what you're going to work on?
- Julie Taylor-Duncan, Madison, Ala.
This happens to me, but usually later in the day. I do have a complete plan of my books, always changeable. With The Hornet's Nest, I would go to one of my many reference books and read a little more about one of the historical characters or an old history book, looking for a new idea. Another option is to read over something I've written earlier. As a last resort, I go to my woodshop and work on a piece of furniture.
I've read many of your books, which are filled with fresh and captivating descriptions. You always seem to be able to speak and write with such ease. How do you conquer writing when life is stressful? I consider you a great writer who was also a great president, and thus I will value any inspiration that will help me write in my stressful environment.
- Lorraine Poznanski, Summit, Ill.
For some reason, I can shift my sphere of attention quite easily from one thing to another, whether it's writing, building furniture, painting, working on projects of The Carter Center, caring for my fields and forests, or answering some of the 3,000 letters I receive each month. When I'm immersed in writing, however, it seems to be a top priority for me.
Simply a privilege to write these lines to you. [I admire] your many skills. My question is: As a retired teacher, I am interested in writing about my experiences of becoming an American citizen. Do you think that it would be an over-used theme, since most of our population is made up of immigrants? I think I know your answer, but I still would like to hear from someone with such rich skills. Thank you. God bless.
- Armando Sardon, Lake Forest, Calif.
You can always write the book, which will be a treasure for your descendants. There are relatively easy ways to have a few hundred copies printed, but unless you have an extraordinary story to tell and can tell it beautifully, it will be difficult to have your book published for sale.
And finally, this letter to Carter from Ludwig Ostfeld of East Lyme, Conn.:
I have recently read the article about you in The Writer magazine. I would first like to say that I respect you as the best president in our modern time. You exemplify all the virtuous qualities of honesty, truthfulness and positive living. I have been a registered Democrat for more than 30 years.
Like you, I love to read, especially history, and I love to work in wood. I've been an active woodworker for over 25 years. I have also seen your vise in the recent issue of Fine Woodworking. I remember the article they did about you years ago, when you were leaving office. The members of your staff bought you some equipment from Sears.
I, like yourself, like to make functional things in wood. I use some of the cut-offs of the quilted maple to make kitchen implements. I have a strong conservation ethic, which was imparted to me by my parents.
A quote from one of my stories: "The way we change the world is through personal example." You have truly done this. You, like my woodworking mentor (who is 89 years old, and the closest thing I have met to an evolved soul), reflect all the virtues of a truly great person. You have a deep moral strength, coupled with a thirst for knowledge. You were always impartial and looked for what would benefit others the most. You always tried to utilize your resources to the utmost. You are one of my role models for life.
I would love to share some of my woodworking experiences with you. Like you, I strive to be the consummate professional in all I do. I've been working on a story for many years and it is finally done.
I look forward to reading your book The Hornet's Nest when I get a chance. I am a voracious reader. My wife's biggest criticism of me is that I love to read too much.
I wish you good fortune in your endeavors and hope, possibly, that you might respond.
Thanks for your gracious comments about me. It's good to hear from a fellow woodworker. I'm planning to do a book of photographs of my furniture sometime in the future, and have acquired a good camera for the project. Best wishes with your own story, and I hope you enjoy The Hornet's Nest.
--Posted March 1, 2004