Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday prepare for the upcoming academic job season. Or the World Series. One or the other.
Readers kept saying, ‘Is Rainey going to get her own book?’ But I was busy trying to write a novel set in 1902. I spent four years in 1902 before Rainey burst through, stopped that project, and got her own book. There’s a moral to this. Write what’s in your heart, not what’s in your head. Write from the basement, not from the living room. Write from the places that make you afraid.
With me, everything begins with writing. No pictures at all—you just shut the Polaroid off; you don’t want to be seduced by pictures because then you begin to write for pictures. Images come in language, language, language: in phrases, in verbal constructs, in poetry, whatever. I’ve never spent less than two years on the text of one of my picture books, even though each of them is approximately 380 words long. Only when the text is finished—when my editor thinks it’s finished—do I begin the pictures. Then I put the film in my head.
When difficult things can’t get done, it’s too bad. When easy things can’t get done, and there’s no good reason, it’s more than too bad. It makes everything seem deep down mean and petty.
Writing is not measured in page counts, I now believe, any more than a writer is defined by publication credits. To be a writer is to make a commitment to the long haul, as one does (especially as one gets older) to keeping fit and healthy for as long a run as possible. For me, this means staying active physically and creatively, switching it up, remaining curious and interested in learning new skills (upon finishing this piece, for instance, I’m going on my final open-water dive to become a certified scuba diver), and of course giving myself ample periods of rest, days or even weeks off. I know that the writer in me, like the lifelong fitness devotee, will be better off.
I did an interview using excerpts from Naked Summer for my answers—something the website was doing at the time, but they decided not to share my responses, or lost the damn thing, or whatever. After unearthing the interview in a folder today, I decided to share it here.
1. What is writing like?
The pole flexed and bent, but he got nowhere. He waded into deeper water, still winding the line, but the fish didn’t budge.
2. What isn’t writing like?
Then all three of us left for the bar.
3. When you do it, why?
Above all, he’d keep quiet and to himself and try to forget this, and work to be different than the adults he knew. Nothing had been decided, he reminded himself. He couldn’t give up just yet.
4. When you don’t, why?
I could have made better decisions, like quitting my job and finding another kind of living. I felt as pinned as the downed phone lines along the road, caught under a sequence of bad choices.