Seema Reza Recommends...

“When my writing gets stuck, I’ll clear time to sit with my last few months of reading spread around me, copying out my marginalia along with the passages I flagged and underlined. I have this massive document of annotations I’ve been adding to for years, a habit I started when I was an undergrad. I write short paragraphs about how I came across a text, what my major takeaway was, what was happening for me personally while I read it, how long it took me to finish, and what else I was reading at the time—sometimes two books have a joint annotation such as Ground, Wind, This Body (University of New Mexico Press, 2017), a collection of poems by Tina Carlson, and Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs That Changed Our Minds (Little, Brown, 2018), a book on the history of psychopharmacology by Lauren Slater. It’s a personal document so the stakes are low. I include inside jokes with myself, notes about other things I’m thinking as I’m revisiting, stuff that’s happening in my life. It is information that would not interest anyone else—and that’s its value. Writing in response to reading is a way of taking stock of my interior world and mapping the development of my ideas for myself, which is the origin of my writing practice. Often after spending time this way I’ll lift something right out of the annotations document, giving a project that had started to feel stale some new energy.”
—Seema Reza, author of A Constellation of Half-Lives (Write Bloody Publishing, 2019)