One of the luxuries of being an accomplished writer with a robust following is the opportunity to immerse yourself in a topic that fascinates you — to dive in and get lost in it and happily surrender to your obsession. One author who’s tasted these heady joys is the Pulitzer-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Doris learned to tell thanks to baseball. She spent long afternoons listening to games on the radio so she could give a blow-by-blow description to her dad, who was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. She’s gone on to write nonfiction bestsellers on Lyndon Johnson, the Roosevelts, and John F. Kennedy.
When she’s writing a new book, total immersion is the name of the game: She does extensive research and her characters become part of her life. So she picks her new subject by asking, “Who am I going to want to spend all that time with?” When her kids were growing up, Doris says, they “used to tease me when I was writing about Franklin and Eleanor that they’d hear me in my room, and I’d say, ‘Franklin, just be nicer to her; Eleanor, forget the affair — it was so long ago!'”
Her fabulous book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, took Doris a decade to research and write. At 70, she’s is still going strong; she’s just finished a seven-year stint penning The Bully Pulpit, the story of Theodore Roosevelt and his successor, William Howard Taft.
Doris is a hands-on historian: “I feel so in need of diaries and letters and the things you wouldn’t have with a modern president.” With Lincoln, for example, “he’s writing handwritten letters to his wife…and they’re emotional. They’re talking intimately.” What a joyful livelihood: to bring these words and amazing events to life! Why not take a tip from Doris and immerse yourself in a subject you want to write about — even if it’s just for a few hours or a weekend. Who knows what might arise? Bravo, Doris. Write on!