“Every week, my mailbox explodes with magazines—National Geographic, the New Yorker, O, and People.
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.
“Don't take notes. This is counterintuitive, but bear with me.
“I love turning to field guides, old issues of National Geographic, or biology textbooks to get a jump start when the writing comes slow.
“The time I spend in the saddle on long bicycle tours—day after day, with no clear sense of where I might camp or buy food or shower—influences my writing process.
“When I’m feeling a bit blue as a writer, I give myself an arts assignment, one that often features ‘categorical’ elements.
“The bath. Endlessly, luxuriously, the tub. I write almost every morning and after an hour or two or three or (if I’m very lucky) four, I run out of road. And then I know it’s time.
“Dog walks with no iPhone access force me to pay attention to San Francisco’s world-class characters, who are wonderfully weird and story provoking. I recently saw a shirtless Jesus doppelgänger playing drums while riding a beach cruiser uphill, which has already made it into my next novel.
“I have a small loft in my house where I write; I like being up high with my laptop and a few books.
“Listen to rap music. There’s a certain level of surprise, bright color, loudness, and just plain fun in artists like DOOM
“Music has infiltrated my writing in all manner of ways—most recently I’ve drawn on the ballad tradition (“Lamkin” Child No. 93, and “The Three Ravens” Child Ballad No. 26), troubadour songs (Guillaume de Machaut’s “Douce Dame”), and German lieder. Something about the rhythms of refrains, their returns with a difference, has proven to be a powerful resource for thinking about memory, repetition, and transformation. Perhaps this is linked with other rhythmic practices I find incredibly mind-clearing and mind-focusing—walking and swimming.