Henry Wei Leung Recommends...

“I was a martial artist before I was a writer. It’s absurd: kicking and punching the air daily, for hours, perfecting your technique for an encounter that probably won’t happen, and definitely not in that sequence. We called it ‘formatting.’ It’s like writing drafts: All those pages in the trash are a practice toward no promised end. So what you train for is purely theoretical—and yet, if you don’t commit yourself to it, if you’re not kicking the air to save your life, then you’re doing it wrong. When I can, I go running, then write standing up, because free-writing is another physical endurance. I don’t think I write from the heart. (What does that even mean?) But I write sore, from the body, which is always urgent, while my heart’s panting. I write by hand so that I can read whether my hand is sure or hesitant or dishonest. And instead of music, I listen to the cadences of old drafts or better books—Simone Weil, Samuel Beckett, and Albert Camus (not his fiction) usually do it for me, and with some embarrassment I admit I’m still consoled and inspired by Shakespeare’s tragedies. Studies show that people who sing in the shower have a better spatial awareness—it’s the acoustics of space—so I try to write the space around my body into a necessary cadence, something to live in and live by.”
—Henry Wei Leung, author of Goddess of Democracy (Omnidawn, 2017)