Writing Tip by Cecilia Woloch

(I’m writing this at a truck stop in Nitro, West Virginia, so I may be under some kind of influence, and that may be my point, or part of it.)

Writing-wise, I’m a firm believer in doing whatever works for you – just figure out what works for you and do it.   There are no formulas, no rules.   But I also believe in the power of habit.   I think it was Faulkner who said he’d learned that, in writing, habit is a much stronger force than either inspiration or willpower.   So I write at least a little bit every day, so that I don’t lose track of myself.   Although sometimes it’s good to lose track of yourself … .Because I’ve also found that being in a strange and even uncomfortable environment sometimes has a better effect on the writing than I think it’s having at the time.   Helene Cixous said, “Exile is an uncomfortable situation.   It is also a magical situation.”   And because I can’t always dash off to the Carpathians or Nitro, W. Va., what I do to shake myself up in my writing is to immerse myself in some other writer’s work for a while.  I’ll pick up a collection of poems by a poet whose sensibilities and way of using language are really different from mine, kind of a foreign country, and I’ll just read for half an hour or an hour, steep myself in that, and then I’ll open my notebook and write and see what happens.  I sometimes do this with a collection of poems or the work of a particular poet for a week or two, or longer, and I just keep mining that vein for as long as it’s interesting to me.  My first ex-husband used to say that I had a pathological fear of boredom.   I don’t think that’s a bad trait for a creative person to have.   So I walk that line between being habitual, maintaining the discipline of working every day, even if only for an hour, and constantly trying to lose myself in unfamiliar territory.

Biography of Cecilia Woloch.  Cecilia Woloch is the author of five award-winning collections of poems, most recently, Carpathia, published by BOA Editions in 2009.  She is currently a lecturer in the creative writing program at the University of Southern California, as well as the founding director of The Paris Poetry Workshop.  She spends a part of each year traveling, and in recent years has divided her time between Los Angeles, California; Atlanta, Georgia; Shepherdsville, Kentucky; Paris, France; and a small village in the Carpathian mountains of southeastern Poland.  For more information on her work go to her website at www.ceciliawoloch.com

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