An Interview on the Writing Process & How San Antonio Writers are Writing through COVID-19


GEMINI INK: What role do you think writing plays in life and how is that role revealing itself as you shelter-in-place during this pandemic?

Writing is a way to construct a bridge across the abyss of human loneliness; this is even more true during covid.

GEMINI INK: Do you have any rituals you perform before you get started writing–tics, habits, even special ceremonies?  How important is it to you to have a sense of sameness about your writing routine?

I really don’t; I could write in a phone booth.

GEMINI INK: What is your favorite piece of writing advice, or feel free to offer a thought or suggestion that you feel has helped you write, even on days when the muse seemed far away?

“What are you afraid of writing about? That’s your real subject.” (Sallie Tisdale)

 GEMINI INK: During these times of shelter-in-place, have your writing routine or habits changed in any way? If they have, can you comment on this? And if they have not, what about your routine is helping you most negotiate this highly unusual time?

I wrote more and more “off-line,” with a pen and pad.

GEMINI INK: What theme or symbol often emerges in your work? Why? Do you have any new images or themes that are surfacing as you write during this pandemic? 

The difficult beauty of human communication (as a child, I had a severe stutter).

GEMINI INK: Describe your first writing desk. How is this different (or not) from your current writing desk?

They look pretty much identical.

GEMINI INK: Can you name a source you return to for ongoing or periodic creative inspiration?

Simon Gray, The Smoking Diaries (4 volumes). 

GEMINI INK: Do you have a favorite writing tool?


GEMINI INK: Does good writing result from best practices, magic, or a bit of both? Or does effective writing stem from something else not mentioned here?

“Staying open for business” (Gordon Lish). [Editor: Shields here means “just show up every day and do the work”] 

GEMINI INK: What is your next project?

I decided to gather every interview I’ve done, going back nearly 40 years to the publication of my first novel. If it was radio or TV, I transcribed it. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I knew  I wasn’t interested in any of my own answers.  The questions interested me, however—approximately 2,700, which I have collated and curated into 22 tightly focused chapters. Now the real work begins: rewriting and reinventing and remixing the questions and finding a throughline. The book is called The Very Last Interview.

David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty-two books, including Reality Hunger (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), Other People: Takes & Mistakes (NYTBR Editors’ Choice), among other award-winning publications. James Franco’s film adaptation of I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel, which Shields co-wrote and co-stars in, was released in 2017. Shields also wrote, produced, and directed Lynch: A History, a documentary film about Marshawn Lynch’s use of silence, echo, and mimicry as key tools of resistance with rave reviews in the New Yorkerthe Nation, and dozens of other publications. His books have been translated into two dozen languages. His website is

Join us on Sat, Oct 24, 6:30PM Central for The Literary Arts in Unprecedented Times w/ bestselling authors David Shields & John Phillip Santos. We’ll discuss writing during a pandemic to the role of the writing arts on the eve of a historic election. RSVP at

Anisa Onofre

Author Anisa Onofre

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