On Stubborness as a Writing Tool

October 18, 2009 § Leave a comment

Well, we wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but it is comforting to us nonetheless (and we hope to other writers) to hear that even the likes of Pulitzer winner Junot Diaz suffer that moment when writing just seems too damn hard.  Here is an excerpt from a very honest essay on writing that he wrote for Oprah’s O Magazine.

Want to talk about stubborn? I kept at it for five straight years. Five damn years. Every day failing for five years? I’m a pretty stubborn, pretty hard-hearted character, but those five years of fail did a number on my psyche. On me. Five years, 60 months? It just about wiped me out. By the end of that fifth year, perhaps in an attempt to save myself, to escape my despair, I started becoming convinced that I had written all I had to write, that I was a minor league Ralph Ellison, a Pop Warner Edward Rivera, that maybe it was time, for the sake of my mental health, for me to move on to another profession, and if the inspiration struck again some time in the future…well, great.

Oprah and the Penguin

January 17, 2009 § Leave a comment

oprah

Tom Tomorrow’s This Modern World

Tackles the Memoir Craze

Oprah, vaseline, déjà vu–and writing

May 14, 2008 § 7 Comments

I’m just wondering–has it ever happened to you that you’ve been in the throes of writing and something you’re typing that very second pops up on the television screen or in a conversation peripheral to you? Like some kind of writing-deja-vu. (Even though a psychologist-friend recently debunked the idea of deja vu…what a buzz kill.) Recently I was working on an article and happened to turn on the TV for background noise, when suddenly the very thing I was writing reverberated in the voice of (who else, right?) Oprah. Now, maybe this isn’t so coincidental, considering it was Oprah, and on any given day she could be talking about everything from post-Holocaust literature to the wrinkle-fighting wonders of Vaseline. But that day she gave voice almost simultaneously to a thought I was having on the page. And I’ve had other experiences like this–just yesterday, in fact, when a librarian leaned over my shoulder and remarked, “That’s funny, someone else was just in here looking up that old article.” (That old article, in fact, covered a plane crash that happened thirty years ago, killing my grandfather and uncles.) I drilled her with questions: Who was it? A man or woman? Young or middle-aged? She couldn’t tell me much, just that it was recent-enough to feel uncanny–two people in search of the same story. (A story that meant profound horror for my family. What possible meaning did it hold for someone else, three decades later?) “You don’t forget something like that,” she said. And I imagine you don’t, in a small library in a small town. But when I’m writing, everything starts to feel uncanny, which makes me wonder if it really is–or if it’s something else… Some enigmatic aspect of the writing process itself. Joan Connor speaks to this question best in her essay, “On Writing and Telepathy,” which you can read here: http://al.gcsu.edu/connor11.htm.

At any rate, it’s fun to think about, not unlike the pleasure in swapping ghost stories. So, you got any?

– Rachael

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