“The majority of us start off asking our peers and our instructors, How can I improve my prose/poetry? How can I become ‘publishable’? These are necessary and essential questions. Equally essential, yet often neglected, is the question, How can I assist other writers?
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.
“My yoga and meditation practices have become such an integral part of my writing life that I can’t imagine what it would be like to sit down to write without knowing that, at some point in the day, I will be able to unroll my mat and quiet my mind.
“For almost three years now I’ve been obsessed with the work of South African photographer Roger Ballen. His photos act as a propeller for me in my writing. There is a spookiness to his work that invigorates me.
“From the moment a writer is attached to a story, said Saul Bellow, he or she suddenly has ‘feelers all over the place.’ So once I’m attached, I draw inspiration from what I think the character in question would read or consume.
“When I’m in the thick of a project, the most important sources of inspiration are those that help me open the gates of reverie, that make me descend into that nonverbal realm from which potent fiction paradoxically springs.
“Often I thumb through animal books—the National Audubon Society’s field guides to birds and fish almost always shake something loose. For instance my poem ‘Parts of a Feather’ in Sagittarius Agitprop (Black Lawrence Press, 2009) was inspired by, and depends heavily on, such bird facts.
“I don’t intentionally scrapbook for inspiration, but that always ends up happening. I will see a graphic or image, or hear a song on the radio, and start to collect them for characters whose perspectives I am about to inhabit.
“Lately I’ve been going to the symphony for inspiration. I don’t know classical music well, so most of what happens surprises me. The long segments of developing sounds break me out of my tight verbal boxes of thought.