Pico Iyer Sits in Silence for 5 Hours Every Morning
The Art of Stillness Author in Conversation with Paul Holdengraber
In this episode of A Phone Call From Paul, Paul Holdengraber talks to the essayist and novelist Pico Iyer about the attention economy, the LeBron James of literature, Act IV of life, the depth and graciousness of Leonard Cohen, watching films in North Korea, and reading Proust on his terrace.
Pico Iyer on spending five hours a day in silence
Every morning I wake up in our tiny apartment in Japan and I go to a corner and I just sit there for the next five hours trying to sift through my projections, my distortions, trying to find the voice behind my chatter, trying to find, of all the things passing through my head, is any one worth committing to the page. As experiences of recent days go through me, as a writer I’m committed to trying to cut through the silly or surface things one would say or find about them and see if there’s anything more durable in them.
Pico Iyer on being grateful for his occupation
The writing job has many occupational hazards, but it struck me that one of the few advantages it has is it allows you to sort through your experience for a living. Especially nowadays as the world gets so full of acceleration and distraction, so much of the time we are racing from sound bite to text message to CNN breaking news updates. The luxury of spending five hours a day just stepping back from that clamor, trying to gain some clarity, is a huge one. I’m grateful for being a writer in that way.
Pico Iyer on turning to literature for self-help
I spend one hour reading a book, either a novel or a substantial work of non-fiction, and I’m amazed at the end of that hour I do feel so much deeper than when I’m just racing around Times Square or doing the kind of stuff I would do otherwise. I feel more intimate and I feel as if I’ve emerged from a conversation with a really soulful, challenging, interesting friend, whether that friend is called Emily Dickinson or Zadie Smith.
Pico Iyer on the LeBron James of literature
Being a basketball fan, I am most excited when I’m watching LeBron James and Kevin Durant. When I want to find out how to deal with an aging parent, what to do with the prospect of death, how to sift through the distortions that I entertain when I’m in love, I want to turn to the LeBron James of thinking and writing. That’s exactly where literature comes in.