Sometimes the words don't come. Won't come. There may be no current project, or there may be half a book already written. No matter. We sit at our desks and frown at paper or screens. We sit on sofas and stare into space. We wonder whether we will ever have a fresh idea again. Ever. In our entire lives.
In those moments, the only thing to do is to read. Other fiction, other non-fiction, and best of all, the real-life words of writers we respect. Pages magazine currently interviews “Lions in Winter” such as Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut, John Updike. In one way or another, each of twelve legends addresses why they write, and why and when writing is important.
I curled up and read the interviews one question and answer at a time, letting each response linger. There were perhaps only six paragraphs from each writer, but I had to put down the magazine between subjects, sometimes within one interview, to consider it all.
These writers I love demand answers and effort not just of themselves. Gore Vidal wonders where the American writers are who will write truthfully about the state of the American Republic. Ursula LeGuin talks about the limitations of conscious intention in art. Kurt Vonnegut asks everyone to write a six-line, rhymed poem, to be torn into little pieces and disposed of in multiple trash depositories, purely to get the brain working. Just reading the right questions gets ideas flowing, sets words free. They make me want to pick up a pen again, and again, and again.