Arts & Entertainment, Writing

David's Influences

David Sedaris

Lesson time 10:06 min

David shares some of his favorite stories and writers and explains how to learn from them.

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Topics include: Read Writers Who Make It Seem Possible • David's Favorite Stories • David's Favorite Writers


[MUSIC PLAYING] - There are folk artists who live in the forest and maybe never went to school and never owned a pair of shoes, and they can take a tree stump, and they can put eyes on it made out of rocks, and they can create something that will make you weep, that will genuinely move you. But there's no such thing as a folk writer. You can't write unless you read. I was never a big reader when I was in high school and junior high school. I would read the books that we had to read for school, but it wasn't my inclination then to read for a book-- I mean, to reach for a book. I wanted to be a visual artist, so I would spend time with my room drawing horrible, horrible drawings. And then I branched out into horrible, horrible paintings. Never had any talent for it, worked on it the way I work on writing now, never improved. It didn't stop me. But it wasn't until I dropped out of college that I started reading. And I was living in a small town in Oregon in a trailer, and I had no friends, and I went to the public library, and I got a library card. And I started by reading "Babbitt" by Sinclair Lewis because that was something we were supposed to read in high school, and I didn't read it. So I started by reading the books that we were supposed to read in school, and then I just sort of branched out. And the way that-- I would find a book that I liked, and then I would look at who blurbed the book, and then I would read their books. So that's how I discovered people. I didn't really have anybody who-- now I've got plenty of people in my life who will say, oh, you need to read the new Ann Patchett novel, oh, you need to read this and that, and they're people who I trust, and I'm very grateful for the recommendations. But back then I was just sort of going at it blind. And one of the authors who I discovered early on who meant a lot to me was Raymond Carver. And one of the reasons was that his sentences were very simple and very short. And he was the kind of person that you could read and you would think, I can do this. There are no semicolons. There aren't even a lot of commas. The people that he wrote about, I felt as if I knew those people, and I thought, wow, you can just write about people like that? They don't have to be fancy people? They don't have to be necessarily bright people? And when I read over Raymond Carver now, I don't love him so much. I mean, I don't dislike him, but I can understand as a young man what I saw there and what was so encouraging to me about his writing. And I think that's really good when you're first starting off, to start with somebody who makes writing seem possible. And again, you read Raymond Carver and you think, I can do this, and then you realize, oh, I actually can't because I don't have a story to tell. But I think, also, it's really normal when you first start off as a writer that you imitate other writers, and that's perfectly OK. It's just normal. You do the same with vi...

About the Instructor

With essays in The New Yorker, bestselling books like Calypso, tours, and readings on NPR, David Sedaris is one of the most recognizable essayists alive. Now he teaches you the art of personal storytelling. Learn how David crafts attention-grabbing openings, satisfying endings, and meaning from the mundane—and how he uses humor to connect with others and process the difficult and sometimes dark aspects of everyday life.

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David Sedaris

NYT–bestselling author David Sedaris teaches you how to turn everyday moments into seriously funny stories that connect with audiences.

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