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.
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)
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)
‘Don’t shine. Don’t seek to shine. Burn.’ (Richard Mitchell)
When I can’t write, I write. I write without expectation. I sit down and make the tips of my fingers touch the cool keys of my laptop, feel the connection, and let the words fall out without judgment. I ask. I explore. I release. I figure I can throw it all away anyway. I write for nothing more than relief. I don’t worry about being stuck in my writing because it is the writing itself that unsticks me.
Since there are so few opportunities to experience a feeling of freedom in my life, I do not allow rules and regulations to dictate my writing—it’s one thing I can control. I’ve always been a striver, and it just hasn’t brought me the satisfaction I thought it would. Also, my livelihood has never depended on a publication record. So, I’m trying to be done with striving when I have the ability to make that choice. Listen, I am middle-aged, I’m not trying to be a big deal, why should I make writing poems, something I love (and how many things do you really get to love in this life?), into another opportunity to suffer? I write when I can, wherever I am, and I am trying to accept this commitment to lawlessness.