Dana Spiotta Recommends...

“When stuck, I pull out a big plastic bin full of paper I have collected, my brain’s own cabinet of curiosities. Every time I read the newspaper or find something of interest on the web, I cut or print it out. I screenshot or text myself things that catch my attention, print these out, and put them in the bin. Some things might be hand-copied on a small index card or postcard. The important thing is that the items be print, analog, not a digital file. I need to hear the rustle of them. I need them to be weirdly formatted, randomly juxtaposed. I have to shuffle through them with my hands. Some examples of what is in my bin: obituaries, essays, pamphlets, maps, screenshots of comments sections, Wikipedia entries, bits of jargon, forms, surveys, ads, overheard sentences. It is like a writer notebook, but comprised of things that I have found, not written. I dump the bin out and look through it. I pull aside what interests me and stick it on a corkboard above my desk. Sometimes I don’t remember why I put a clipping in the bin, and then, as I read, I remember what captivated me. When writing a novel, more and more things in the bin pertain to my book. I slowly become a machine of noticing for the work, highly focused. Then when the project is finished, the bin items become expansive again as I glean for an (as yet) unknown purpose.”
—Dana Spiotta, author of Wayward (Knopf, 2021) 

Photo credit: Jessica Marx