Terry Teachout

How did you become a writer?

I edited my high school newspaper--that was the first time I saw my work in print. After I caught the bug, I never got over it.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.)

I wrote an essay about this in 1999: 


When and where do you write?

Wherever I am whenever I need to write--at home, in hotel rooms and departure lounges, on trains and planes. The press of work usually means that I have to write most days, but beyond that I have no fixed habits: I write to the deadline. I'll be spending five weeks at the MacDowell Colony this summer. For me, that's an unprecedented luxury.

What are you working on now?

Long-term: a biography of Duke Ellington. Short-term: I publish one or two columns each week in The Wall Street Journal and a longer essay each month in Commentary.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Rarely. Except for "blocks" caused by external circumstances (i.e., a death in the family), the only time I have trouble getting a piece going is when I have to start writing before I've thought it through.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Learn a discipline other than the craft of writing. Once you fill your bowl with knowledge and experience, it will never run dry, but if you start writing before you've filled it, you'll dry up before you know it.

Terry Teachout is the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal and the critic-at-large of Commentary. His most recent books are Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, All in the Dances: A Brief Life of George Balanchine, and A Terry Teachout Reader. His first play, Satchmo at the Waldorf, will be produced this summer by Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., and Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Conn. He has collaborated with Paul Moravec on two operas, The Letter (premiered by the Santa Fe Opera) and Danse Russe (premiered by Philadelphia's Center City Opera Theater).