Episode 66—Brin-Jonathan Butler on the Risk of Chess, Obsession with Obsessives, and the Blessing of Struggle

Brin-Jonathan Butler, Brendan O'Meara
Brin-Jonathan Butler sporting Cuban refugee Yasiel Puig’s No. 66.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables from Brin-Jonathan Butler (@brinicio):

“It was completely surreal, like being in the games room of the Titanic after it struck the iceberg. Nobody gave a shit.”

“Obsession has always fascinated me, whether it’s more a dance with your virtues or your demons.”

“Maybe you have to con your ways into finishing a lot of things in life.”

“My worst ideas happen when I’m sitting at the computer. I need to go for a walk, have a cigarette, or play with my cat.”

Hey, hey, it’s The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak with the world’s best artists—leaders in narrative journalism, essay, memoir, radio, and documentary film—and tease our their stories, tips, and tricks and how you can apply those tools to your own work. I’m your host @BrendanOMeara, Brendan O’Meara in real life.

IMO, this show is at its best when you, the listener, get to hang out and feel like your listening to a couple of CNFers talk shop over coffee or beer or absinthe, though that could take a turn for the weird.

That’s what happens when you’ve got someone like Brin-Jonathan Butler back on the podcast. This is his third rodeo at CNF HQ. He sent me a DM on Twitter and said, “We should another show, no?”

And I said, “Um…two words, hell yes!”

And then he said, “Awesome.”

So we got it done.

Brin’s got a new book coming out in a year titled Heavy Lies the Crown (Simon & Schuster, 2018) and it’s about chess. We talk about how this book came to pass, how he went about navigating a world that was quite foreign to him, and hammering out a book from start to finish, oh, in about six months. For other insights into writing a book like your ass is on fire, go listen to episode 52 New York Times writer Joe Drape.

Brin also talks about how he ensures high profile people have a good interview, the importance of moving around and taking walks, the mental ballet of conning yourself into finishing art.

Thanks for listening!