“The bottom line is this: You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it….If there is no moral question, there is no reason to write. I’m an old-fashioned writer and, despite the odds, I want to change the world. ” — James Baldwin via Reluctant Habits
The process of writing for me comes from a different part of the brain than the rational one. I don’t know if I believe all this right-brain/left-brain stuff, but I don’t sit down and make decisions like, “Yes I need a decision here, I need something there.” I set the characters in motion, I set the story in motion, and they lead me to certain places. Admittedly, sometimes they lead me down a dead end and I go, “This isn’t going to work, I really painted myself in a corner here, I gotta go back and change this.” But sometimes they lead me to very powerful places. Entertainment Weekly
Sometimes I go to sleep thinking of the next morning’s hot coffee in my customary white paper cup. The anticipation makes the sheets seem softer. In my life, I am between landmarks: after childhood, before a book, before marriage and children, all potential. I’ve heard the gambler’s rush isn’t in losing or winning, but the interval between playing and knowing. Coffee is my ritual, my interval, the luminous place between now and what’s next, more arc than landing. It is ubiquitous and legal, solitary and communal. In the morning, when I take a sip, space opens between the molecules; voices and clatter in the café separate into bright, tonal bands. My mind fans open. Fireflies blink in my torso. I take it to go, so I can drink and walk alone in the cool air under the trees on 12th street on my way to work. I savor each sip after the scorch has dissipated, before the cup is loose and lukewarm like a hand in mine.
Instead of a dedicated room, my best trigger is the actual habit of reading over the texts from the day before. Marking. Changing. Fussing. This ritual amounts to a habit of trust. Trust that I can make it better. That if I keep trying, I will come closer to something true.
I’m happy when I’m alone in a room and inventing. More than a commitment to the art or to the craft, which I am devoted to, it is a commitment to being alone in a room. I continue to have this ritual, believing that what I am doing now will one day be published, legitimizing my daydreams. I need solitary hours at a desk with good paper and a fountain pen like some people need a pill for their health. I am committed to these rituals.
Finally, I think of things for years. I may have ideas and then I tell them to my close friends. I keep lots of notebooks for possible novels I may write. Sometimes I don’t write them, but if I open a notebook and begin taking notes for it, it is likely that I will write that novel. So when I’m finishing one novel my heart may be set on one of these projects; and two months after finishing one I start writing the other. —The Paris Review