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Are you writing with your head or your gut?

The New York Times recently profiled book editor Judith Gurewich. In addition to being the publisher of Other Press, Gurewich is a Lacanian analyst. Perhaps because she was trained in an aural tradition—listening to patients, asking questions—Gurewich employs a unique method for editing books: she has authors read their manuscripts aloud.

“When my stomach intervenes, I stop the reading,” Gurewich says.

Not her ear, her stomach. Continue reading “Are you writing with your head or your gut?”

This/Not That

So, you’re embarking on a new writing project. You have a sense of the setting, character, and themes. You might even know what your characters get up to (plot) and how quickly the story will roll along (pace).

While it’s good to know what your story is, it’s also helpful to know what it is not, or what styles or approaches you might avoid. Along with your narrative outline and index cards, create a This/Not That list. Continue reading “This/Not That”

There’s a lot you’re not saying

As an editor, it’s my job to poke the writer when I feel they’re not getting to the point or when they’re holding back on details. Oftentimes I’m poking a sore spot that the writer doesn’t want to address: a trauma that occurred, or a difficult theory they need to work out. We then determine together if they should dive deeper or hold back on the details.  Continue reading “There’s a lot you’re not saying”

Keep it light and keep it moving

I post about creativity every weekday on my Instagram page. These posts focus on practical writing tips, but are grounded in how we make space for writing, how we need to give ourselves permission to create and to fail in the process.

Above all, I believe that making art needs to feel possible, which is why my medium of delivery is so simple: a short piece of advice scrawled on a Post-It note. Continue reading “Keep it light and keep it moving”

Creativity is private

In his essay on nature and creativity, The Tree, John Fowles speaks to the tendency to ascribe meaning to the world by classifying it. The belief is that we can’t know something until we can see it, describe it, name it, and determine its use—as a resource, as a species linked to or distinguished from other species. Naming captures that species in time, even if it’s in the process of evolving. Continue reading “Creativity is private”

Guesswork is artwork

The dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille said:

Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.

Leaping in the dark can leave you bruised. Inventing stories and acting on them can have you jumping to conclusions. But leaping in the dark can also take you somewhere you never imagined. Guesswork is artwork. And besides, isn’t it the job of writers, especially fiction writers, to invent stories and jump to conclusions? Continue reading “Guesswork is artwork”