“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.
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 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.
“When I feel like I am ‘irritably reaching after fact and reason’ and the writing turns to sludge or sand, I turn to chance operations and knowledge systems such as the I Ching and tarot to get my transmission moving.
“My bicycle’s name is Gertrude Stein, short for ‘Gertrude Stein, my personal Argot’ (because I keep needing to replace parts on it) and shortened, often, to Gertie. Perhaps that is the first thing I can recommend when you are stuck: name your bike. Develop a close personal friendship with it.
“When writing, I like to channel little ecstasies that fill me daily, bits of pleasure and pain I pick up from my immediate environments. But, as Niedecker’s poem ‘Laundromat’ notes, ‘After all, ecstasy / can’t be constant’—what would it be otherwise?
“A benevolent seizure, this is how the writing begins for me. A seizure and a pouncing tiger—and this in the shape of a dream. To be sustained, they demand that I pay close attention.
“Writing is wrestling. With time, with space, with memory. With confidence, sentences, syntax. With children, pets, partners, dinner. Essays have either gushed out of me, fire hydrant style, or I have coaxed and pulled at them painstakingly, like a parasitic worm from my ankle.
“I started dream journaling under lockdown, recording dreams because they seemed to be getting more vivid. Even though very little of this writing made it into a poem or anything I’d put into a book, it was a good way to keep my writing muscles ready.