My Trade Is Mystery: Seven Meditations From a Life in Writing

Carl Phillips
Published in 2022
by Yale University Press

In this collection of meditative essays, award-winning poet Carl Phillips draws upon his decades of teaching and mentorship to create a book “not in terms of how to write or to be a writer, but in terms of how to live, as a writer.” In the preface, Phillips writes: “If writing is an ongoing quest—and I believe it is—then this book is meant as a guide for navigating the various distractions that hinder the writing (and sometimes the life), things that we’re all susceptible to, like self-doubt, a feeling of having nothing left to say, a fear that we’re somehow not doing this thing ‘correctly.’” Throughout seven succinctly titled essays, including “Ambition,” “Stamina,” and “Community,” Phillips balances personal interrogation with insights on the mysteries of creating art, guiding emerging and seasoned writers through what is arguably the most challenging aspect of being a writer: sustaining the practice across a lifetime.