The best advice about being stuck in your writing that I recall is the example that Ray Bradbury gave us: “If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful.
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 my debut poetry collection, Concentrate, won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, I moved from a space of writing to one of editing. The book’s release signals a return to my generative space, the creative mode that makes new work possible.
It’s easy to fall into the despair of wanting too much. The decade I was researching and writing my poetry collection, banana [ ], was punctuated by that despair. Old classmates and colleagues published books and won prizes, and I wanted that. I wanted to be farther along in my research.
If, like me, you sometimes find interviews with prose writers overwhelming and envy-inducing—a bit like staring directly at the sun—I recommend listening to other types of artists talk about their work. You get the light at an angle, without the burn.
When creatively stuck, I try to suss out what in my reading (and this includes music, art, etc.) excites me so that I must follow it and try either a new form or take on a new subject, or even a new dimension of self. Currently, two writers have had that effect.
When I’m at work on a book-length project—when I’m really in it—I’m good. I can stay in a flow. But in between projects?
When I’m too closed off from my inner life—when I’ve drifted into a mindset of fixating on my to-do lists, my frustrations, my stresses—I have almost no chance of writing a good poem.
My debut novel, Calling for a Blanket Dance, is fourteen years in the making. Fourteen years! I wrote the two earliest chapters back in 2008 and 2009, when I was an undergrad at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.
I keep a copy of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude near my desk at all times, not just because it’s my favorite novel, but because it’s a book so jam-packed with characters and events and magic and violence that whenever I find myself stuck writing a particular scene o
Look at trees—look at rocks—look at birds and grass and leaves. Step out briefly from the human world into the world where “I” exists, like a figure in a Chinese landscape painting, as a small point in the periphery.