Category: writing habits

When working on a novel, I write every day, 8:…

When working on a novel, I write every day, 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM, following very strict routines: starting and finishing at the same time, and aiming to get a certain quota of work done. Over time I’ve developed a Pavlovian response to my rituals: When I take the first sip of coffee at 8:00 AM, my brain flips a switch and I’m in writing mode.

When I was revising…there were two nigh…

When I was revising…there were two nights…where I drank a little gin, listened to nineties hip-hop, and I danced as I wrote and rewrote. I broke night with my poems. In other words, you have to hang out with your book, especially if your book is becoming a living thing.

When I find myself in the writing weeds, I hav…

When I find myself in the writing weeds, I have finally learned to pay attention to the warning signs: Stop. Go back. Do not push farther in. I resist the urge to soldier on, to muddle through, to fix a line here or there, to delete whole paragraphs that make no sense at that moment, to get to the end of the page….I give in. I nap. Conk out. Let sleep’s hammer fall. Writers write, we’re told endlessly. Yes, but writers must also stop….You only grow when you are lying down. Lie down—the body knits its own plots.

I’m writing a novel, and have been for over a …

I’m writing a novel, and have been for over a decade. I’ve had periods of great productivity, days when one thousand-word quotas turn into four thousand words….But working on a singular project for years isn’t easy. Some days the writing rushes like the Rio Grande, and sometimes, weeks, months, or even years pass, and my pages don’t budge. Instead, they buck against my will. When those days arrive, I refuel my well, the headwaters supplying my creative stream. I visit historic archives and museums, galleries and art shows, movies and talks….

My writing practice tends to be pretty unpredi…

My writing practice tends to be pretty unpredictable, pretty sporadic, and is usually dictated by a particular image, observation, question, etc. seeming louder or more urgent than the general noise of the day—or than the night.

Another thing I like to do is find one theme i…

Another thing I like to do is find one theme in my previous writing that still has juice, that feels like it hasn’t been fully explored yet, and follow it into the rabbit hole. In a way, my second collection came about because of this method. I took one phrase from a poem in my first book, ‘cowboy theme park,’ and started collecting everything I could that seemed related to that idea. It was like finding a loose thread, tugging, and instead of everything unraveling, discovering that it was tied to a very interesting monster.

I’ve come to some kind of understanding about …

I’ve come to some kind of understanding about what it means for me to be in the act of making….If I’m reading a book, I’m not stuck. If I go to an exhibition, a show, have a drink with friends—if I’m out and I’m engaged with the world, I’m not stuck. If I’m staring at a blank page, frustrated that I can’t get a word out, I am still in the act of making—and to be honest those moments where I can’t produce a thing have been valuable to me, because in some ways it gets me to where I need to be. Some days I want to write, other days I just want to get behind my DJ controller.

I’ve come to some kind of understanding about …

I’ve come to some kind of understanding about what it means for me to be in the act of making….If I’m reading a book, I’m not stuck. If I go to an exhibition, a show, have a drink with friends—if I’m out and I’m engaged with the world, I’m not stuck. If I’m staring at a blank page, frustrated that I can’t get a word out, I am still in the act of making—and to be honest those moments where I can’t produce a thing have been valuable to me, because in some ways it gets me to where I need to be. Some days I want to write, other days I just want to get behind my DJ controller.

When my writing gets stuck, I’ll clear time to…

When my writing gets stuck, I’ll clear time to sit with my last few months of reading spread around me, copying out my marginalia along with the passages I flagged and underlined. I have this massive document of annotations I’ve been adding to for years, a habit I started when I was an undergrad. I write short paragraphs about how I came across a text, what my major takeaway was, what was happening for me personally while I read it, how long it took me to finish, and what else I was reading at the time….

When my writing gets stuck, I’ll clear time to…

When my writing gets stuck, I’ll clear time to sit with my last few months of reading spread around me, copying out my marginalia along with the passages I flagged and underlined. I have this massive document of annotations I’ve been adding to for years, a habit I started when I was an undergrad. I write short paragraphs about how I came across a text, what my major takeaway was, what was happening for me personally while I read it, how long it took me to finish, and what else I was reading at the time….