Writers Recommend

In this online exclusive we ask authors to share books, art, music, writing prompts, films—anything and everything—that has inspired them in their writing. We see this as a place for writers to turn to for ideas that will help feed their creative process.

Amitava Kumar


“I read an interview with the writer and journalist Lawrence Wright around ten, perhaps fifteen, years ago. Wright was asked what he did when he got ‘knotted up’ during the day, and he said that he would go for a run. The thing that struck me was his saying that he would often solve the problem after only five hundred yards. I didn’t believe him. But during my walks on an ecological preserve near my house, I started carrying a folded index card and a golf pencil in my pocket.

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Natashia Deón


“I tell my creative writing students this: No one can write the story you have inside of you. No one. Even if it seems that other writers have told some version of this story a thousand times…about the same subject, or type of characters, or one set in the same place or time, and even if the story is fiction. Your story is yours and has a basis in some part of your life, your worldview, in the uniqueness of your experiences, your understanding of life, and you have been the only person who’s been there for every part of yours. For this reason, only you can write your story.

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José Vadi


“Let’s agree writing is one of many creative art forms, and that everything—from the way someone crosses the street, twirls their hair, rides a subway—can be described as an art. That said, when I’m in a rut I like to get uncomfortable. I share my writing with different writers and friends who don’t write for feedback. I try to get stimulated by other art forms. I go to a museum, go to a park, I go skateboarding, physical things that don’t include staring at my draft or phone.

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fahima ife


“The thing I need to do escapes me. Sit still and write. Get up and move. Prepare the meal and eat it. Consider sentences. Write sentences. Shatter sentences. Live inside an orifice wet with silver. Eliminate caffeine. See acupuncturist. Make a list of gratitude. Sit in the black morning. Drink water. Sit in the black evening. Repeat.

Commune with higher self :: { Do not ruminate on the lover who is not here beside you } :: Drink water

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Ana Castillo


“A few years ago, after decades of vigorously producing books in various genres, I lost all desire to write. My first creative passion was drawing and when silence took over, I began filling up notebooks and drawing pads with line drawings. In college when I learned how to line draw it was with a fountain pen and India ink. Today, it’s with a fine point Sharpie. The method is freehand and there are no initial studies or sketches. The composition is whatever manifests on the blank page.

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James Tate Hill


“After losing my sight, I found comfort in my favorite movies, ones I had seen so many times I remembered the pictures that accompanied voices and soundscapes. Returning to Rain Man, Stand By Me, and Jaws with only my ears, I was surprised how much of each story remained intact. I was also surprised, listening more closely than I used to listen, by how many details I never noticed. I might have been thinking of those movies years later when I requested a book from my library that I had already read.

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Nawaaz Ahmed


“For almost the entire period of the ten years I worked on my debut novel, Radiant Fugitives, my writing sessions have started the same way, listening to the same piece of music: ‘Libertango’ by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla. It’s a short piece, only a few minutes long in the version I own, but every time I hear the first few bars, my mind settles into a familiar groove, an acknowledgement that it is time to enter the writing space, no matter where I am or what time of the day it is.

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Fred D’Aguiar


“When I get stuck in my writing, I walk away from it. I write while standing at my desk, so all I do is turn on my heels and leave. Sometimes, I perform my departure from my desk. I tiptoe or do a mock walk of disdain, or mimic RuPaul on a catwalk (as if I could!). The physical break from being mentally stuck instills a little fear in me. I worry that when I return the writing might be gone as well, itself fed up with me, its progenitor, and therefore upped and away into the ether or wherever ideas and their architectures go when they abandon their helpers.

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Kia Corthron


“When I initially considered the question of what it is I do when I feel stuck in my writing, I felt stuck. Do I ever hit a wall? Then I remembered: all the time! It’s just that my tricks to overcome sudden inertia are now so ingrained that I usually forget I’m in a temporary slump. Whatever I’m doing, I stop. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting clarity on a research question before I can move ahead (though I try not to go down too many rabbit holes). Maybe I put the novel aside for the moment and work on an essay (like right now). Or a play.

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David Hoon Kim


“In the past, when things blocked up, I would go out and take a walk around the neighborhood, following familiar streets or ones less familiar and ending up at some unexpected corner. Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to live in several regions/cities of France (Brittany, the North, Paris) and in the American Middle West (Iowa City) and the San Francisco Bay Area (Berkeley) with an East Coast detour (Cape Cod)—all places one would call, ‘walkable.’ Of course, nothing keeps me from taking a walk in the suburban neighborhood south of Los Angeles where I now live.

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