For this week’s creator spotlight, we would like you to meet Norman Eisen!
What was the inspiration behind becoming a creator? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?
The inspiration behind becoming a creator for me was to preserve the stories that I had heard from two very different sources —stories that I feared would be lost if I did not write them down in what became my first book, The Last Palace. The first source was the hundreds of Czech and Slovak people I met while I was Ambassador to the Czech Republic, who told me the tales of a century of partnership with the United States and in particular the amazing events that had gone on in the residence of the U.S. Ambassador in Prague. Because I was the latest occupant, I had a particular interest, and Iwas determined to write those stories down and preserve them. The second source was the stories that my mother told me, as an expatriate from Czechoslovakia who immigrated to the United States after surviving the Holocaust. I was also determined that her stories be preserved, and that first book was the result. Writing that book took me three years, and I discovered along the way that I love the daily discipline of telling stories. That is the thing I enjoy most about the creative process, and I have since written two more books, Democracy’s Defenders and A Case for the American People (due for publication July 28, 2020).
Can you take us through your creative process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?
My creative process is to write every week day, five days a week. How long it takes depends on what is due and when it is due. For my latest book, I often worked 14-hour days because I had to produce 14 chapters in 14 weeks! Other times, when I have op-eds, essays, or shorter work due, I’ll produce a complete 1000-word essay in as little as an hour to 90 minutes. Almost everything I produce does make money, although it does not always make a lot of money. Essays and op-eds tend to be paid at a very modest rate; books can do a little better. Fortunately, I’m not primarily reliant on my writing for my income. For that, I have my paid job as a Senior Fellow at Brookings. They pay me to do all this writing, so in that sense, I guess, all my writing does produce a living wage.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?
The biggest misconception about being a writer is the notion that you have to wait for creativity to strike. I get up every morning, I’m at my desk usually by 8 a.m., and I force myself to sit there until I’ve produced the number of words that I’m required to produce by my various assignments, whether a book contract with a due date or an essay or op-ed. Everything I write tends to have deadlines. I suppose that I like that, because it gives me discipline.
Have you experienced copyright infringement and, if so, how has it affected you personally and financially?
I have experienced copyright infringement. At one point, someone stole a bunch of my writing and put up a fake social media site claiming to be me! I could not tell if it was intended just to lure people in, or was an homage or something else, but needless to say, it was distressing. I contacted the appropriate authorities and got it taken down, but it was a reminder to me of the importance of copyright on written materials.
What is the best piece of advice that you would give other creators in your field about copyright and how to protect themselves?
The best piece of advice that I would give other writers about copyright and how to protect themselves is to periodically look for your name and your materials online to make sure no one is stealing your writing. If you do discover that your work is infringed, act very quickly, with all appropriate authorities. Copyright makes creation and innovation possible, and it’s very important for creators to protect their intellectual property.
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