I do like scaring myself when I write—
writing about something that I might not want to say aloud.
—Jessica Anya Blau
Jessica Anya Blau is the author of DRINKING CLOSER TO HOME, THE SUMMER OF NAKED SWIM PARTIES, and THE TROUBLE WITH LEXI.
Meredith: What did you have to unlearn about yourself to find your truth as a writer? Was there anything that had to go?
JESSICA: I guess I had to unlearn the idea that I was not smart enough to write. I had to choose to ignore my ideas about myself and my own abilities and just write anyway.
Meredith: Does your creative process come from a place of something that scares you or from a place of welcoming familiarity? Now answer this–which is the preferable path to creativity…for you?
JESSICA: I’ve always been a daydreamer, so I’m very comfortable spending hours in my head. When other people are going crazy because a flight is a delayed, or a bus isn’t showing up, or the line at the post office is forty-minutes long, I’m completely comfortable just waiting and spacing out. My writing mind is connected to my daydreaming mind, so the creative process is very comfortable for me. I do like scaring myself when I write—writing about something that I might not want to say aloud. And often that’s the best writing. Although the path to that scary writing is the same as any other writing—I just enter that spacey mindset and see what comes out.
Meredith: Do you judge your work before it’s finished? I guess a better question is how do you keep from passing too much judgment on your work in order to keep moving forward. And while we’re on the subject, what does judgment really mean?
JESSICA: I don’t have time to judge my work when I’m trying to get out an early draft! I have two kids, a dog, a husband, a house, and I teach. My writing time is very limited, no time to dilly-dally, so when I sit down I just push ahead no matter how pathetic the writing is. This way I can rather quickly get to a first draft that I’ll then revise (which is a form of judgment) over and over and over again. But I don’t really judge myself. I can see the work as separate from myself. It is something I created, but it is not me.
And, wow, ‘what does judgment mean,’ that’s a big question! Judgment feels connected to shame somehow—like it’s an overseer making sure no one shames the family, the village, the tribe, the nation. Or the self, I suppose!
Meredith: Using the six-word memoir approach, please give us your six-word description of how you write.
JESSICA: Transcribing the movie in my head.
Meredith: What do you do when you sit down to write and nothing happens? Is it really nothing? Or a path to someplace unexpected?
JESSICA: Yes, you’re so right, it’s always the path to someplace unexpected. Last year my computer crashed and I lost about a hundred pages (I use Dropbox now). I never really rewrote those pages, I wrote something completely different using only the idea behind those pages. So even that “failure” was a path to someplace unexpected.
Visit Jessica Anya Blau at https://www.jessicaanyablau.com.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio