Thursday, August 6, 2015

Summer Reading and Creative Process

Asked by the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors' blog what I'm reading this summer, my answer hinged on sons. But each novel I write has its own process -- one that's usually bullied by work, teaching, travel, commitments -- but this summer has been a strange one, a little more shut down than usual, intentionally simpler (in response to the unexpected -- we're all fine, doing well...but, you know, life sometimes must remind you that it's unpredictable) and so this novel's creative process has had more room to step to the fore. The day's work begins the night before. I've been reading at night -- the books noted because I need them in my life, but also books like Epstein's King of the Jews, which I need as a writer. His is just one of a stack that are touchstones for this first draft of a novel. I don't start a touchstone book and read through. I just open to a page and read a bit. My mind drifts and my characters start telling me what I've forgotten and what's next. In the morning, I usually don't work on the novel -- but avoid it with busy work about the upcoming release of HARRIET WOLF, to ease my anxiousness. And then by mid-day, the new work is restless. I look at the notes scribbled late the night before, and they let me into the novel, usually reentering parts already written. By afternoon, I've usually figured out what I should write next. I know the general shape, where I'm headed, but it's fogged. This is how I'll remember my reading from this summer -- rummaged and dreamy.