Joe Pan Recommends...

“When I get a case of writer’s block I quickly grow agitated and self-pitying. Personally I find the best cure is a new tattoo, small and flesh-colored, so I can tattoo over that same spot when needed. Long drives with my dog Skipper Doug are also helpful, but if the words really aren’t coming to me, I’ll fast for a day and watch the documentaries of Werner Herzog or a supernatural crime drama directed by Na Hong-jin or Bong Joon-ho. Then I’ll try to rewrite the dialogue of those films from memory. This can drum up some fresh ideas. Other times, and this won’t work for everyone, I’ll call up my grandmother and when she answers I’ll ask if ‘Mr. Konoko’ is there. When I was a child, my grandmother used to sit by my bed at night and make up stories about two spies who try to kill each other all the time, like the Mad Magazine ones. At certain times I was allowed to voice the part of ‘Mr. Abruzizzi’ so when my grandmother answers, ‘There’s no one here by that name, Mr. Abruzizzi,’ I will immediately reply, ‘But I did not give you my name, Mr. Konoko,’ and laugh hard into the phone, and she will dial zero on her rotary and hang up. The sound of the spinning zero is my cue that the call is being traced, and within minutes some hulking goon will be breaking into my apartment to wrestle me to death. I have an actual fear of death, so this little exercise makes me aware of how little time I have left to write. If all else fails, I’ll venture down some internet rabbit holes and collect random bits of information that I can weave together into a short paragraph. It doesn’t matter if the writing is nonsensical, the important part is that I’m writing.”
—Joe Pan, author of Operating Systems (Spork Press, 2019)