Category: writing inspiration

“Poetry is a space where we have the responsibility to acknowledge the power of language—all the violence it is capable of, all the tenderness it is holding, and our need to reach forward toward new language at the same time we are returning to older language, so we can carry one another best.”

Natalie Diaz, in the March/April issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (2020)

In ‘Personism’ Frank O’Hara writes, ‘You just go on your nerve,’ which isn’t the best advice for everyone—especially the ‘just’ part—but I’ve found it to be useful.

As writers, we must try to keep the reader on their toes. If you start getting bored, there’s a good chance the reader will get bored. Surprise yourself; surprise the reader.

When I am stuck, I walk. I don’t wear earbuds or headphones when I walk, nor when I travel by train or bus, because I want all of my senses to be centrally alive to what’s around: the music that lurks in the crevices of city sounds, forest sounds, desert sounds.

Read. There are a lot of formulations of this, but at the moment, Stephen King’s comes to mind: ‘If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.’ If you followed only the first part of that, you’d already be 90 percent of the way there.

I walk along the beach and look at the sea. I call a friend. I take a train journey and sit by the window. I drink a small glass of red wine. I go to the cinema. I ride my bike fast, so that my hair streams out behind me. I cry. I read Eimear McBride. I make soup. I listen to Nick Cave. I go swimming. I sit in the sun with my eyes closed. I wash dishes. I read Jenny Offill. I write….

Stop writing what you know you already know in the ways you know you can write. Write towards what you want to know in ways you’re not sure you can.

Almost all of our lives and thinking exist in spaces of ambiguity, uncertainty and doubt. And yet in much of our public speech and all of our political discourse we use language in a way that wants to deny all of those things. Art seems to me precisely the tool we have for allowing ourselves the fullness of human thinking.

What they say about the Muse is probably true: If you keep showing up, eventually she’ll feel sorry for you and show up too.

Whenever I feel stuck or overwhelmed with a writing project, I try to take a step back and ask myself three questions: What needs to start? What needs to stop? What needs to change? And then I make lists or action items in response to those questions.