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Chris McCormick

“My tricks to break through writing barriers are pretty much indistinguishable from distractions. When I’m stuck, I pick up my guitar, or I watch old Oscar Peterson interviews on YouTube, or I read short essays on how to break through writing barriers. Almost anything I do outside of writing can be blamed as a waste of time one day, and praised the next as the reason I suddenly yearn to get back to work. Maybe this is unhelpful. Here’s a specific anecdote I try to remember when my writing feels perfunctory or zapped or otherwise dead on arrival: I think of the old and probably exaggerated story of Sonny Rollins, who, after hearing Coltrane, suddenly stopped recording, stopped playing gigs—just stopped. Instead, he took his instrument to the Williamsburg Bridge, where he practiced every night for hours, just for himself and for the incidentally present. Now and then, maybe, a person insisted on leaving a few coins. This happened for years, until Rollins felt ready to take the stage again, until he’d discovered a new sound, until he felt worthy, maybe, of playing alongside a man of genius. Sometimes, when I feel unworthy, I gather sentences like coins on a bridge. They are incidental and clunky reminders that I’m honestly trying. Flaws and all, they glint under the lamplight like an excuse in reverse.”
—Chris McCormick, author of Desert Boys (Picador, 2016)