Kendra Allen Recommends...

“When I’m overwhelmed that I’m lacking something—a metaphor, a meaning, a story even—I turn to words that make me think about words. And nothing accomplishes that more than music for me. I turn to music to get those thoughts flowing. I create playlists by artists who write how I want to write. I find music by artists I’m not familiar with. I listen to old music by artists I’m in love with. I dance to their words. I sing their words. I rap their words. Boogie’s Everythings for Sale, Maxwell’s Embrya, ‘Nobody’ by Jhene Aiko, and ‘Brain’ by Banks are always in rotation. Often I read their words while the sounds play in the background and use these connections to slowly dig myself out of my rut. I become a witness to what I’d like to emulate. I find new metaphor, new meaning, new story, new words. Music continuously shows me the importance of process and pacing. Knowing that writing is a process more than it is talent eases most of my anxieties when the words just aren’t there. Baldwin once said, ‘Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.’ Because of this, I keep going back to the blank pages.”
—Kendra Allen, author of When You Learn the Alphabet (University of Iowa Press, 2019)