Archive for the 'Fictionaut Five' Category
For the better part of a year now I’ve been getting up at 5 a.m. and starting work at 5:30. The truth of the matter is I’m just far too sleepy to take much time thinking and getting into a rut. I just do what I can to get to the work, dive in quick and get started.
I don’t know a great writer who isn’t a great reader.
I reach for a book on my shelf and re-read a favorite passage, or I pace in my writing room while talking out loud. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go one of two ways: up (with a shot of espresso) or down (with a nap). Usually, it is the nap that works best.
It’s sort of awkward when people ask how I come up with my ideas. I have no idea how I come up with my ideas—it just sort of happens—but it’s difficult to express this without sounding like I’m trying to be mysterious. I’m not trying to be mysterious.
The best writing advice I ever received is the advice I give over and over again: in order to be the best writer you can be, you first have to be the best reader you can be. Keep reading and don’t ever stop.
You have to refuse to listen to the nos.
When I’m stuck or uninspired, what doesn’t help is anything involving a computer screen, though good luck trying to tell my monkey brain that. The best imagination kickstarter I’ve found is to take a long and destination-adverse walk, a.k.a “wandering without aim.” I am a whiz at aimlessness. Zero navigational skills but great endurance.
I can’t even begin to express the awe and great satisfaction seeing undergrads I work with on Honors Theses and in classes fly off to places like New York University or Emerson and to have them keep in touch with me about their accomplishments, or to work with grad students on wonderful books.
When I’m stuck, I just try to write through it. I force myself to do the terrible awful miserable version of whatever I’m writing, and usually the horror that results from knowing that someone else eventually will be reading it makes me find a thread I can pull to make it better, and then better again, until I either rewrite into a good version, or stumble on a whole new angle that works.
Think of the rewards for writing as air, as rich and limitless as what we breathe—or as oceans. Jean Rhys reputedly said that she was one more drop in the ocean of literature. Because someone’s up, it doesn’t mean you are down. Writers can help each other by being ready with a compliment.
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