“Do you have a written work you return to over and over, knowing as you reread it, you’ll return to it again? Is there a poem or essay, an article or story that, for you, is like a psalm?
In this online exclusive we ask authors to share books, art, music, writing prompts, films—anything and everything—that has inspired them in their writing. We see this as a place for writers to turn to for ideas that will help feed their creative process.
“When stuck, I pull out a big plastic bin full of paper I have collected, my brain’s own cabinet of curiosities. Every time I read the newspaper or find something of interest on the web, I cut or print it out.
“When my writing stalls, it usually means that there is something that I need to write that I’ve chosen to avoid. I’ll do all the writerly things that one does in the thick of avoidance—read widely within and beyond my topic; indulge in craft books and actually do the exercises; go for walks with
“When I was writing my first novel, Things We Lost to the Water, I was a graduate student in Lake Charles, Louisiana. If a writing session wasn’t going the way I wanted, I went somewhere else.
“My mother recently gave me two plants (Shel and Roald) as a gift. I didn’t particularly want them, as I don’t like tending to things. But here we are. I find them to be at once demanding and frustratingly sensitive.
“I will try to get to the point because I try to be outside always for dusk and it’s time.
“When writing becomes laborious, I have three methods for trying to work through it. First, I go for a walk, usually with my husband, who is also a writer.
“When I want my writing to flow freely, I go to the water. I go to the sea. I dive deep: search coral, float, om, purify, cleanse, let go, pray, give thanks, sing to Yemaya, sing the songs of the Jejudo haenyeo, hula, and release all that does not serve me.
“When I was a visual artist, I would take a small sketchbook with me wherever I went and draw whatever I saw, which was often strangers in cafés. Now that my creative outlet is writing I still do this but with words, especially when my work-in-progress has stalled.
“It seems to me that writing and reading are pretty much the same activity, maybe the inhale and the exhale of the same breath. Which is to say that, for me, I don’t do one without the other. Reading a book that enthralls me gets my mind gabbing, which makes my writing fingers itchy.