The Writing Zone: An interview with Christopher Buckley

What pleases Christopher Buckley most about “Work-Ups” is that he was able to capture the feeling of goodwill that baseball brought to him and his friends during the 1950s.

About the Author
The Writing Zone
with Christopher Buckley, author of “Work-Ups-Baseball and the ’50s”

What pleases Christopher Buckley most about “Work-Ups” is that he was able to capture the feeling of goodwill that baseball brought to him and his friends during the 1950s. That goodwill, for Buckley, is a central truth of the time period covered in the essay. And he discovered that truth through rewriting the essay time and again.

“I was looking for the spiritual and literal truth insofar as I know it or could discover it through the process of revision,” he says.

Revision was central to his ability to represent the feeling of goodwill. “I wrote 15-20 drafts before it was done,” he says, adding that this is his usual practice with essays. While revising, he says, “the main thing that happened for me was seeing the connections between the scenes and images and incidents. I worked at cutting out extraneous detail and scenes and adding in data that I recalled while working in that ‘zone’ that was the meditation/writing/rewriting of the piece.”

Before revision, though, Buckley says working in the writing “zone” involved allowing a first draft to “hit the computer with as rapid an unedited stream-of-consciousness spray of sentences and/or lines as I could.”

In writing “Work-Ups,” Buckley also was “looking to find the rhythm of a voice.” As in his poetry, he says, he wanted this essay to have “music” and “imagery.” The essay began with a “poetic impulse-for some time I had wanted to write a poem that made use of the rich storehouse of baseball names. At the level of language and rhythm, I wanted the fun of just saying, ‘Red Schoendienst, Enos Slaughter, Cookie Lavagetto.'”

The images and events from the 1950s that Buckley needed to write the essay came to him only when he went back to their source, actually visiting his old grade-school in Santa Barbara. He parked his car, walked over to the ball field, closed his eyes, and spent some time in that meditative “zone,” remembering his school days.

Then he returned to his journals from that time. In his journals, Buckley says, “There were all those names waiting to be used.” There was also a record of the events of that period. “But more than the overview of the years, I saw that what was most important was the simple goodwill, the friendship that was a part of our days-and that the names that were most important were those of my schoolmates from those days.”

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