Diana Goetsch Recommends...

All writers must engage in two major activities—composing and revising—and I’ve never met a writer who didn’t greatly favor one over the other. I love revising, which I can engage in anytime, anywhere. Composing, however, is best done outside of my apartment, in a coffee shop that is neither too loud nor completely empty. It also helps if the place is some distance from where I live, giving the locale the elevated feel of a destination. I often think of the psychologist Erik Erikson, who observed that childhood development is best nourished through independent play in the presence of a caregiver. Likewise, composing goes best for me when I’m alone in public.

Writing my memoir, This Body I Wore, I relied on a new habit: walking great distances. I didn’t walk to prepare to write, but rather to recover from a day of working on what is a fairly harrowing memoir. I’d begun doing EMDR, a somatic trauma therapy involving alternate stimulation of the right and left sides of the body. It’s amazingly helpful (for reasons no one quite understands) and after particularly intense sessions my therapist will remind me to do some walking—to continue the alternating right and left stimulation, which helps to integrate the session.

The two habits—writing in a faraway café and walking home—have dovetailed nicely. I also notice a subtle yet powerful sense when crossing a bridge to Manhattan (where I live), as though I were suturing both the city and myself together. High above the East River, the tenements of Chinatown, or the Lower East Side, I sometimes receive a flash of perspective or insight, which becomes a starting point for the next day’s writing.

For years I’ve advised students to obey their idiosyncrasies, but not make a big deal out of them—and maybe I’ve made too big a deal out of Erik Erikson or EMDR. Artists needn’t analyze why an idiosyncrasy helps them. They should just obey it.
—Diana Goetsch, author of This Body I Wore (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022)  

Photo credit: Tyler Foltz