As a writer, you can’t allow yourself the luxury of being discouraged and giving up when you are rejected, either by agents or publishers. You absolutely must plow forward.
I think people tend to see the bigger point, which is maybe not fitting in and feeling like you didn’t have the childhood that you expected you would have, or that you felt lonely or struggled with drugs and alcohol or just that you were able to achieve your dreams.
I was on the cover of a lot of newspapers. I was on the cover of USA Today for every single day for a month. I was on the masthead, so I tend to get recognized a lot, and in weird places. It’s always flattering, and it’s always odd. It’s always at the worst possible time.
The secret to being a writer is that you have to write. It’s not enough to think about writing or to study literature or plan a future life as an author. You really have to lock yourself away, alone, and get to work.
I really look at my childhood as being one giant rusty tuna can that I continue to recycle in many different shapes.
And I tend to listen to NPR when I’m not writing.
When people meet me, many times they’re very surprised because they expect someone who is kind of wacky with seven piercings and very hip and cool and New York City, and I’m not.
With my own memoirs, they are truthful, and I write everything fully expecting to some day end up televised on Court TV, and I’m fully prepared to be challenged legally on it.
Reading takes solitude and it takes focus.
My parents had this relationship that was really terrifying. I mean, the level of hatred that they had, and the level of physical abuse – my mother would beat up my father, basically – and I think I was drawn to images on television that were bright and reflective.
Marriage is overdone. As long as there are people, people are going to find it interesting.
I’ve just finished my next collection, Possible Side Effects, and I’m now working on a collection of holiday stories as well as a memoir about my relationship with my father.
I’m like the guy who prepares your taxes or a dentist. I’m very conservative and boring in a lot of ways.
I was in advertising for years. That was cushy, you know? It’s pretty cushy in a lot of ways, but I hated it.
I think writers tend to be experience junkies, and I think they also tend to want to be on the outside looking in.
I love to both give and receive very old books.
I like, though, that people have a hunger to connect with other people. They’re desperate to know that you’re not lying to them or misleading them.
I knew that if I wrote a new book every six months or every year, if I continued to read great books, eventually I would write something worthy of publication. I understood I might be in my forties or my fifties or even my sixties, but I felt confident that it would happen.
I can’t tell you how much I love Target and Costco, that kind of culture, because it’s something I never felt a part of. I’ve always felt like a tourist because I have never fit in anywhere.
But I can also write in crappy motel rooms, while standing in line, or sitting in the dentist’s chair.
As a child, I was never drawn toward depraved or extreme situations; I really wanted a normal little childhood. Unfortunately, that’s just not what happened.
There’s never a false note in a Berg novel.
Once I decided to write, to be published, I knew it would happen.
My only ritual is to just sit down and write, write every day.
I’m always prepared for the worst. I was prepared to have the book come out, sell seven copies, and have to keep working in advertising, so it was just great that it was received so well and by such a huge audience.
I never listen to music when I write.
But my favorite band is Curbside Life, out of Chicago.
Before I’m a writer, I’m definitely a reader and when I read memoir, I really want it to be true.
Because I’ve lived in one room my entire life, working at the same table that you use to pay bills at and eat at. It’s going to be nice to have actual space.