I do not write every day. I write to the questions and issues before me. I write to deadlines. I write out of my passions. And I write to make peace with my own contradictory nature. For me, writing is a spiritual practice. A small bowl of water sits on my desk, a reminder that even if nothing is happening on the page, something is happening in the room–evaporation. And I always light a candle when I begin to write, a reminder that I have now entered another realm, call it the realm of the Spirit. I am mindful that when one writes, one leaves this world and enters another. My books are collages made from journals, research, and personal experience. I love the images rendered in journal entries, the immediacy that is captured on the page, the handwritten notes. I love the depth of ideas and perspective that research brings to a story, be it biological or anthropological studies or the insights brought to the page by the scholarly work of art historians.When I go into a library, I feel like I am a sleuth looking to solve a mystery. I am completely inspired by the pursuit of knowledge through various references. I read newpapers voraciously. I love what newspapers say about contemporary culture. And then you go back to your own perceptions, your own words, and weigh them against all you have brought together. I am interested in the kaleidoscope of ideas, how you bring many strands of thought into a book and weave them together as one piece of coherent fabric, while at the same time trying to create beautiful language in the service of the story. This is the blood work of the writer.Writing is also about a life engaged. And so, for me, community work, working in the schools or with grassroots conservation organizations is another critical component of my life as a writer. I cannot separate the writing life from a spiritual life, from a life as a teacher or activist or my life intertwined with family and the responsibilities we carry within our own homes. Writing is daring to feel what nurtures and breaks our hearts. Bearing witness is its own form of advocacy. It is a dance with pain and beauty.
As a musician, I have a deep respect and appreciation for the gift of hearing and the beauty that it brings to life, ... Having been on an international hearing mission trip with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, my respect and appreciation is equally great for the work it is doing to open the ears of the world's children. Through its many good works, the Starkey Hearing Foundation is not just giving the gift of hearing to those in need but the gift of life.
In my day, when I was a young kid, army duty was compulsory in South Africa or you go to jail. I had the choice, so I spent a year in the entertainment unit, and outside of doing shows - and I used to write for, arrange for the big band - outside of doing that, I actually had a rock band in the army.
I belong in America more than South Africa. I can't remember the feeling of living there anymore. It's like it was in another life. That's sad in a way. It is my country. It's where I grew up. You don't know what it's like to have these negative feelings about your homeland. There are roots you can't escape.
Let me begin with a heartfelt confession.I admit it. I am a biblioholic, one who loves books and whose life would seem incomplete without them. I am an addict, with a compulsive need to stop by nearly any bookstore I pass in order to get my fix. Books are an essential part of my life, the place where I have spent many unforgettable moments. For me, reading is one of the most enjoyable ways to pass a rainy afternoon or a leisurely summer day. I crave the knowledge and insights that truly great books bring into my life and can spend transported hours scouring used book stores for volumes which "I simply must have". I love the smell and feel of well-loved books and the look of a bookcase full of books waiting to be taken down and read.
How, then,' I hear you ask, 'shall I attain my end, whether it be Christian love, socialism, or American democracy?' Your Christian love and your socialism and your American democracy are what you do each day, your manner of thinking each hour, of embracing your life companion and loving your child; they are your attitude of social responsibility towards your work, and your determination not to become like the crushers of life you so hate.
Build your house on granite. By granite I mean your nature that you are torturing to death, the love in your child's body, your wife's dream of love, your own dream of life when you were sixteen. Exchange your illusions for a bit of truth. Throw out your politicians and diplomats! Take your destiny into your own hands and build your life on rock. Forget about your neighbor and look inside yourself! Your neighbor, too, will be grateful. Tell you're fellow workers all over the world that you're no longer willing to work for death but only for life. Instead of flocking to executions and shouting hurrah, hurrah, make a law for the protection of human life and its blessings. Such a law will be part of the granite foundation your house rests on. Protect your small children's love against the assaults of lascivious, frustrated men and women. Stop the mouth of the malignant old maid; expose her publicly or send her to a reform school instead of young people who are longing for love. Don;t try to outdo your exploiter in exploitation if you have a chance to become a boss. Throw away your swallowtails and top hat, and stop applying for a license to embrace your woman. Join forces with your kind in all countries; they are like you, for better or worse. Let your child grow up as nature (or 'God') intended. Don't try to improve on nature. Learn to understand it and protect it. Go to the library instead of the prize fight, go to foreign countries rather than to Coney Island. And first and foremost, think straight, trust the quiet inner voice inside you that tells you what to do. You hold your life in your hands, don't entrust it to anyone else, least of all to your chosen leaders. BE YOURSELF! Any number of great men have told you that.
Some writers are the kind of solo violinists who need complete silence to tune their instruments. Others want to hear every member of the orchestra—they’ll take a cue from a clarinet, from an oboe, even. I am one of those. My writing desk is covered in open novels. I read lines to swim in a certain sensibility, to strike a particular note, to encourage rigour when I’m too sentimental, to bring verbal ease when I’m syntactically uptight. I think of reading like a balanced diet; if your sentences are baggy, too baroque, cut back on fatty Foster Wallace, say, and pick up Kafka, as roughage. If your aesthetic has become so refined it is stopping you from placing a single black mark on white paper, stop worrying so much about what Nabokov would say; pick up Dostoyevsky, patron saint of substance over style.
Q: Where and when do you do your writing? A: Any small room with no natural light will do. As for when, I have no particular schedules... afternoons are best, but I'm too lethargic for any real regime. When I'm in the flow of something I can do a regular 9 to 5; when I don't know where I'm going with an idea, I'm lucky if I do two hours of productive work. There is nothing more off-putting to a would-be novelist to hear about how so-and-so wakes up at four in the a.m, walks the dog, drinks three liters of black coffee and then writes 3,000 words a day, or that some other asshole only works half an hour every two weeks, does fifty press-ups and stands on his head before and after the "creative moment." I remember reading that kind of stuff in profiles like this and becoming convinced everything I was doing was wrong. What's the American phrase? If it ain't broke...
When I write I am trying to express my way of being in the world. This is primarily a process of elimination: once you have removed all the dead language, the second-hand dogma, the truths that are not your own but other people's, the mottos, the slogans, the out-and-out lies of your nation, the myths of your historical moment - once you have removed all that warps experience into a shape you do not recognise and do not believe in - what you are left with is something approximating the truth of your own conception.
This was supposed to be yesterday. I was sitting on the Cardiff/London train, supposedly about to write this very column, and realising something quite terrible. My head was entirely empty. A vast echoing void. Bigger on the inside, but with nothing in it. You could drop a pebble in my brain and wait for an hour to hear it land. No actually, you couldn't - that would be aggressive and unhelpful, so keep your damn pebbles to yourself.
object,” no form that stops at a boundary, only a stream of manifold, precise, and nameless sensations, shifting into one another, pullulating, a fullness, a flow. Stripped of words, untamed, the universe pours in on me from every direction. I become what I see. I am earth, I am air. I am all. My eyes are suns. My hair streams among the galaxies.
The way I found time to write 'The Imperfectionists' was that I took work as a copy editor at the 'International Herald Tribune' in Paris, working full-time for approximately six months, then taking my savings from that and writing full-time, then returning after six months, and so on, until the book was done!