Yoon Choi Recommends...

“I try not to rely on inspiration in my writing life, but sometimes, when I need to escape the tyranny of my style and process, I try something that worked for Joan Didion. I type the inspired words of other people.

Recently, I tried this with a sentence from Lorrie Moore’s short story ‘Real Estate.’ That ending! It feels at once predestined and spontaneous, as though it never existed in the form of an earlier draft. A robbery, a shooting, more marital strife, a spaceship metaphor, a dog’s point of view, and the narrator’s understanding that her cancer has returned, about which Moore writes: ‘Though she would have preferred long ago to have died, fled, gotten it all over with, the body—Jesus, how the body!—took its time.’

When I tried to type this sentence by heart, I couldn’t remember if Moore had written ‘to have died’ or ‘to die.’ I forgot ‘fled.’ I typed, ‘got over it,’ even though I knew that this was wrong, that there’d been some awkwardness here. The moment I reread the original version, all frustration vanished and the magic was back. Of course one should write ‘gotten it all over with!’ Of course one should not be rhythmically glib about one’s own death!

In trying to capture Moore’s style, I had basically grown alert to my own habits of syntax and style. My own pet prepositions. But for whatever reason, my blundering made me optimistic, and I cheerfully returned to my work, having broken the spell of the inevitable.”
—Yoon Choi, author of Skinship (Knopf, 2021) 

Photo credit: Aaron Jay Young