“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. I move because I need a quantum action to change my situation. Like an electron stuck in its orbit around a nucleus, it takes an influx of energy to alter my perspective. It takes a quantum leap. Stepping away from the situation is a first salvo fired against malaise.
Second, I look at a work of art for a long time. Anything by Frank Bowling works wonders. His cover art on my nonfiction book, Year of Plagues, looks like a faded rendition of a petri dish, surrounded by bacteria that has spilled from it and threatens to engulf the entire world. (Oh, yeah, the pandemic!). Bowling works by distressing his canvasses replete with erasures and layerings. He opts for hints of things, intimations, rather than verisimilitude. His canvasses are suffused in a mood and in allegory, metaphor and affect. His work triggers all kinds of narrative and imagery. The change of medium intrigues the mind and replenishes the senses. I strut, nay, pirouette, back to my desk with some bravura.”
—Fred D’Aguiar, author of Year of Plagues: A Memoir of 2020 (Harper, 2021)