When the words won’t come, I take my work for a walk. Literally, I put pages in my pocket and take a hike in an unfamiliar place. The idea is that both me and my writing could use the stretch of a new environment. Put your hand on it every day, no matter what, is my philosophy….Most important is faith. Stay close to the story and, ultimately, it will return to you.
One of the most profound things [Mat Johnson] said was to just relax. Readers can sense when you’re tense.
“Translators don’t just use language—we shape it. This is true of everyone, but more than most we have the opportunity to carve the language into new forms, to graft onto it from other cultures. Language is not a static phenomenon, and we are not passive consumers of it. The choices we make are amplified as we create a body of work, as we teach and pass on our process.”
—Jeremy Tiang, in “The Art of Translation: Many Englishes, Many Chineses” in the March/April issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (2019)
When the writing is slow or when I’m between projects, I pull on my boots and head to an art museum. Museums dilate us. Our job is to stay open and look…. What happens as we look depends entirely on the looker and what is being looked at. But something inevitably happens—you love it and look more deeply, you hate it and wonder why, you remember something, your mood shifts, an image emerges, a line of thinking starts to lead you in an unexpected direction….
James Baldwin told a writer’s group in the women’s prison at Riker’s Island: ‘One can change any situation, even though it may seem impossible. But it must happen inside you first. Only you know what you want. The first step is very, very lonely. But later you will find the people you need, who need you, who will be supportive.’
“People always say the novel is dead. Who knows, but if it is the case, moments of crisis for any art form or any convention are always good. If that’s the case, it will force us to think of different ways of approaching, different ways of writing.”
—Valeria Luiselli, in “Angles of Experience” in the March/April issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (2019)
Sometimes, if things aren’t going well, I’ll start reading a book that I both truly admire and, for whatever reasons, can’t get engaged with. After reading for a while, my mind gets pitched into the perfect state for a new creative act. It feels cleansed.
The thought of having to explain what I’ve done. Or have what I’ve done explained to me, ahhhhh.
“Poetry is not about an event. It is the event. Art is the resistance of complacency: It always stands in opposition to numbness. That is why it just doesn’t die, poetry—despite so many death notices. It is always there, waking us up when we get numb, poking us in the eye.”
—Ilya Kaminsky, in Garth Greenwell’s “Still Dancing” interview in the March/April issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (2019)