PROCESS PORN, PLEASE. WHAT IS YOUR TYPICAL WRITING DAY?
Process porn is difficult for me, mainly because I don't have what I think of as typical writing days. I'm not the sort of writer who writes every day, which is the typical thing you hear you're supposed to do in all of those books about writing and how to be a writer. Granted, I have gone through many periods of my life when I have written every day, sometimes all day and all night long, and I have even written on days when I've been struck down by illness (when I lived in Japan and was recovering from the mumps, for instance), but in essence, I need to be compelled to write. A vision or a voice has to snag on my imagination, my spirit, and drag me to the table to lay it down in words. If that's not there, I'm not interested.
There were periods in my life when I was younger that I didn't feel compelled to write, but I thought I should be trying to write anyway, because of all those voices from writing teachers or authors of how-to writing books saying you're supposed to. It doesn't work that way for me, that write-every-day wisdom. Whenever I try to force myself to write without that force tugging at me for some mysterious reason, I tend to write things that I'm annoyed with or frustrated by or even things that just plain bore me. After a while, I gave myself permission not to write when I don't feel like I have a story to tell. It was very freeing to do that, because by giving myself permission to not write, I opened myself up to new stories, to new experiences. When I'm not writing something, I'm able to watch new movies, to read new books, to go for long walks in the woods or to even just sit around with my thoughts flowing in whatever direction they want to go in. When I snag on a vision or a voice, though, I can't do much else but listen to it, to write it down, until I've brought it to completion, and all of those other things go by the wayside. When I'm compelled to write, I may write a couple of pages a day, at any time of day, or I might write five or six before I feel like I need to break from the dream and let it come back to me. There's a kind of dance or a movement between the writer and story, a mediation that occurs in the process of writing (at least for me). Writing, for me, is a little bit like trying to lure a flighty ghost to come to me. I have to make it feel welcome. I can't move too quickly, or it will disappear in my hands if I try too hard to grasp hold of it.
BIGGEST THING THAT KEEPS YOU FROM WRITING WHEN YOU SHOULD BE WRITING?
Myself. Always myself. No excuses. If I have a story demanding to be told and I'm not doing it, it's my own fault. I can make time for it, however busy my day job teaching university has become, however many things are going on in my life in general. I can make time to write, and if I'm not writing when I have a story to tell, then it's just me being lazy, or in some cases, afraid I won't be able to make the story right, so I put it off until I feel like I can't put it off any longer. I do think that might be part of process, though, too. This waiting, sometimes, for a buildup to the point where I sit down and feel like the story's been sitting inside me for so long that I'm going to work really hard on it after such a wait to bring it into being.
'Here I am' from "The Love We Share Without Knowing."
SUPER POWER YOU WISH YOU HAD?
I would really like to bend reality to my will, if I could, just for those times in my life when I feel powerless or unable to make my life go the way I want it. If not that, because that's pretty damned powerful, then I'd at least like the convenience of teleportation. I hate flying and driving, though I do like to take trains.
WHAT SHOULD A READER DO AFTER READING THIS?
Read one of my books or stories and let me know what you think (Birds and Birthdays). I like hearing from readers about things I've written. It's worth more than money or anything else, hearing from people who have read things I've written and have something to say about it. It's the truest and realest kind of reward for this kind of work, I think, knowing your stories are out there, becoming a part of other people's lives.
'Talismans' from Barzak's first novel "One for Sorrow"
||WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU WERE READING BUT AREN'T (BECAUSE IT DOESN'T EXIST)?
I wish I was reading a novel called Albondocani, by the Danish writer, Isak Dinesen, who had apparently been working on a book of that name at the end of her (Isak Dinesen was a male pseudonym for the Baroness Karen Blixen) life. Her secretary felt the title meant something along the lines of "I'll pull myself together," which Dinesen often said was one of the mottos she lived by, and that the book would have been a kind of mosaic novel, or novel-in-stories. Dinesen wrote some of the finest Gothic tales of the twentieth century. I would love to have seen this novel.