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, inseparable from reading, is the place I feel most at home. So, the fact that both reading and writing have been difficult during this pandemic is disconcerting. For a while, I felt completely off-kilter.
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?
My mornings start with meditation, writing in my journal (with coffee) and most days some form of exercise. Sometimes this routine leads to thoughts, ideas, writing that might be in the realm of a draft or a piece of work I want to return to. Sometimes not. But the routine is the thing I can count on. It opens me up to the possibility of more creative work.
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 faraway?
GEMINI INK: During these times of shelter-in-place, has 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 did not read or write for at least two months. Maybe three. Just three weeks after the pandemic started, I had an emergency appendectomy. The dang appendix had burst. What a strange time. In my recovery, I did nothing. Then when recovered, I could barely think, because I was reading nothing but the news. By then it was summer and I realized the Covid crisis was becoming chronic and I better figure out how to live.
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? Comment on this in any way you would like.
The few poems I’ve written recently come straight out of surgery, illness and meditation. Even David Lynch made an appearance—his foundation helps veterans among others get trained in Transcendental Meditation, the kind of meditation I practice. But I don’t expect opioids or hallucinations to be in any more poems. I have no idea what direction I’m going in next.
GEMINI INK: Describe your first writing desk. How is this different (or not) from your current writing desk?
I never had a writing desk. Now, though I have a desk, that’s where I do other work. I write from my stuffed cozy chair and the ottoman is a sort of desk that holds my books and cats.
GEMINI INK: Can you name a source you return to for ongoing or periodic creative inspiration?
Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. It’s a creative 12-step of sorts to help blocked artists. I’ve done the 12-week program twice at various stages of my life, and I’m doing it now. It’s pulling me out of the funk.
GEMINI INK: Do you have a favorite writing tool?
Tul Gel pens and Moleskine lined journals.
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?
Good writing? Effective writing? Reading, reading, reading and revision.
GEMINI INK: What is your next project?
I’m not sure. With Frances of the Wider Field recently completed, I’m just playing around and trying to find my footing again. I might try some small pieces of creative non-fiction. I like reading the online journal Brevity, so I’ve been thinking about that.
Laura Van Prooyen is author of three collections of poetry: Frances of the Wider Field (forthcoming from Lily Poetry Review Books, 2021) Our House Was on Fire (Ashland Poetry Press) nominated by Philip Levine and winner of the McGovern Prize and Inkblot and Altar (Pecan Grove Press). She is also co-author with Gretchen Bernabei of Text Structures from Poetry, a book of writing lessons for educators of grades 4-12 (Corwin Literacy). Van Prooyen teaches in the low-residency MFA Creative Writing program at Miami University, and she lives in San Antonio, TX.
Laura will be teaching Line, Voice, Story: Let the Poetry of Larry Levis Be Our Guide, a 6-week workshop exploring the poetry of Larry Levis. Students will read in community and write in response together. The workshop starts October 7th.