A quick Q&A with poet Eddie Vega on writing in the age of 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 chronicles our personal history. I can’t take pictures of my thoughts, but I can certainly write them down. This has revealed itself during the pandemic because I’m spending so much time alone with my thoughts, looking for an outlet for my creativity.
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 used to do most of my writing/journaling at a taqueria. If something was good enough to be worked on, I’d go to my school computer and type it into a Google Doc. The sameness is important, to me at least, so that good thoughts don’t get lost.
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 seems far away?
Just write. Maybe start with journaling your day or writing a list of things going on in the world or in your life, but just write until the intended thoughts begin to flow. Edit later.
GEMINI INK: During these times of shelter-in-place, has your writing routine or habits changed in any way?
I can’t write at the taqueria anymore—it was damaged by a fire a few weeks before we actually started to shelter-in-place. The pandemic has caused me to ritualize my writing process so that I can break up my day, enter into a space separate from where I’m sleeping or watching television. Lately, I’ve added a Mexican Coke to my ritual because I think the caffeine and cane sugar stimulates my creativity although I have no data to back up such a claim.
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?
People say I only write about “Mexican things,” and this kind of bothers me to be honest. I don’t think I’ve ever gone up to a writer and asked why they only write about white things or depression or politics. Looking back on my published work I can see that the theme running through it is that of navigating a world as a first-generation Mexican-American. As I work on my current book during this pandemic, I’ve made this theme intentional. Really, I’m writing about identity and I’m hoping that as I discover/recover my own identity, the reader can discover/recover their own identity. I guess that staying home is more than just physically inhabiting a space, but staying within my own self, as well. I am my home and I’m taking some time to explore what’s built this particular home.
GEMINI INK: Describe your first writing desk. How is this different (or not) from your current writing desk?
My first writing desk was the table where we ate every meal. There was a desk in my childhood bedroom, but I don’t remember writing there very much. Today, I’ve got a table which I fashioned into a desk, so really it’s just a surface for the computer and printer but there are no drawers. It’s solid wood, chipped in one corner, and I found it at a used furniture store on Fredericksburg Rd, that no longer exists. When it was in my bedroom, it collected papers, clothes, photographs, and anything else I didn’t want on my bed or floor. I’ve since moved it into my living room where it has its own space and it’s become much more properly utilized.
GEMINI INK: Can you name a source you return to for ongoing or periodic creative inspiration?
GEMINI INK: Do you have a favorite writing tool?
The wireless keyboard I’m using at the moment. By switching the USB receiver, I can seamlessly go from my laptop to my desktop and vice-versa.
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?
There’s some magic in the writing, but it’s not enough. The good stuff becomes great stuff with editing and that definitely needs to be practiced.
GEMINI INK: What is your next project?
I’m writing a new book about growing up as the son of an immigrant. I collected poems that I’ve previously written, adding a few more, and footnoting words and phrases, as a memoir of the experience, so I guess it’s a hybrid.
Eddie Vega is a poet and spoken-word artist who claims South Texas as his home. His poems have appeared in anthologies, displayed on Via buses, depicted on downtown windows, and shouted from stages big and small. His book, Chicharra Chorus, was published by FlowerSong Press in 2019. He writes about food, Tejano culture, politics, and the intersections thereof. He is known throughout the land as the Taco-Poet of Texas. Find Eddie on all social media platforms as @eltacolico.
Join us on Sat, Aug 1st from 5-7pm!
Eddie Vega will be our featured emcee for A Gathering of Voices: Gemini Ink Open Mic. RSVP at this link.