Tuesday, September 5, 2017
Amish Trivedi : My (small press) Writing Day
“I’d probably, say, in a given week, I probably do about fifteen minutes of real, actual work,” Peter Gibbons tells The Bobs in Office Space. While I’d say I do more than that, certainly the bulk of my time is spent looking like I’m not doing anything at all.
There was an article recently in The Guardian that talks about setting aside time for thinking— the person in the article says two hours a week. For me, I set aside time for working. My writing day starts late, usually, because I spend the day doing all the other things one has to do to survive (teach, grade, eat, watch episodes of House). For me, I’d say the majority of the time is thinking and the rest of the time is working, sleeping, etc.
That might sound lazy, but I think writing is a lot about letting the mind wander and get to where it’s going to go on its own. That works for me creatively and critically in most ways. It’s how ideas develop— allowing the things in your world to swirl around one another until something clicks in your mind. Sometimes good ideas come, sometimes bad. Sometimes you get really depressed or overly excited about the wrong things, but it all works. Giving your mind some space to wander and then attempting to synthesize that is what my writing process is about.
Since 2010, I’d say I have done the bulk of my writing at the dining table, covered in books, pushed up against the wall so that only one side has chairs. I’d say that’s two book manuscript, an unknown number of reviews, school essays, emails, and whatever else. I have a stack of fountain pens, my notebooks at the ready. I do as much as I can by hand, thanks to Gabe Gudding teaching about automaticity in writing.
Mostly, I stare out the window at cars driving by or people walking or biking. Occasionally you get runners, people in arguments, but mostly there’s a tree out my window that moves gently and is very relaxing, further pushing the mind away from the stressors which I think can get in the way of good work. Like David Lynch points out, it’s when the mind is relaxed and, if possible, happy, that it becomes capable of doing good work. When you’re stressed, worried, depressed— well, that’s when you grade papers. When you’re doing your own work, I find it’s best to let myself be in a place where the work is the whole thing. I’m not sure that’s ever helped my writing career (whatever of it there is), but at least I write a good amount.
Primarily, I drink water or coffee. Bourbon certainly has a place on the table as well the occasional cup of tea. I’m eating a sandwich while I write this but when I’m doing my own work, food doesn’t seem to come up. A few feet away, there’s a stereo with turntable. Mostly it’s off when I’m working, but sometimes I’ll put a record on, forcing myself to get up to change sides every so often. Probably a good practice as I get older, I imagine.
Amish Trivedi is the author of Sound/Chest (Coven Press, 2015), has an MFA from Brown and is currently a Ph.D. student at Illinois State University.