authors | December 05, 2012

National Book-Award Winning Author Colum McCann Shares His Thoughts on Writing

What does Colum McCann—the bestselling author of Let the Great World Spin, Zoli and Dancer—see as one of the most important tools that a writer can possess? Having a plethora of personal adventures under their belt, he says. As he tells an audience in a recent lecture, observing as much about life on Earth as possible will help you to be more creative and make you a better writer. He advises that you shouldn't be too quick to jump into a career that restricts you from traveling and experiencing new things in new places. Take some time, he says, to see the world and meet unique people before settling down to a fixed location.

McCann practices what he preaches. Travel and adventure have proven integral to his own work. To write This Side of Brightness, for example, McCann engrossed himself in the subject matter. He traveled to New York City and spent a brief period living alongside the homeless in the underground tunnel system. His experience allowed him to write the story of the relationships between the men who dug the tunnel carrying trains between Brooklyn and Manhattan using first-hand experience. Another example is his book Dancer, where he traveled to Russia to experience the environment where Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev lived and studied, and meet the type of people he interacted with. It is often said that good writers draw material from personal experiences, and McCann certainly proves that this practice can lead to extremely successful results.

His five novels, which have been published in 30 languages, are all international bestsellers. He was named Esquire's Writer of the Year in 2003, was awarded a French Chevalier des arts et lettres in 2009. He has also won both The Pushcart Prize and The National Book Award, has written for several major publications, and teaches at New York's Hunter College. In his lectures, he provides an in-depth look at the inspiration behind his writing—and provides valuable takeaways that inspire anyone with a natural creative streak.

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