Our “How I Write” series asks writers from the University of Louisville community and beyond to respond to five questions that provide insight into their writing processes and offer advice to other writers. Through this series, we promote the idea that learning to write is an ongoing, life-long process and that all writers, from first-year students to career professionals, benefit from discussing and collaborating on their work with thoughtful and respectful readers. The series will be featured every other Wednesday.
This week’s feature writer is novelist Kyle Coma-Thompson, whose most recent book is The Lucky Body (Dock Street Press, 2013). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Boston Review, AGNI, The American Reader, New American Writing, Bat City Review and elsewhere. He has held fellowships as an Axton Fellow in Creative Writing at University of Louisville, a Bennett Fellow at Phillips Exeter Academy, and a Hoyns Fellow at the University of Virginia.
How I Write:
Location: Louisville, KY
A novel, a collection of short stories, a collection of poetry.
Cemetery of Mind—Dambudzo Marechera;
To Each His Own—Leonardo Sciascia
- What type(s) of writing do you regularly engage in?
Fiction and poetry.
- When/where/how do you write?
What I write during any given part of the day depends on how much time I have available. If I have a half-hour or hour block of time before my next commitment, I write poetry. If I have two or more hours, fiction. Often I’ll write poems before beginning on a short story, to loosen up.
- What are your writing necessities—tools, accessories, music, spaces?
Whatever’s at hand, I’ll make use of. I keep a pocket notebook to write in while I’m walking, driving, at work, wherever. I keep a notebook for story ideas. Then groupings of notecards on which I sketch out the linear structure of events and details of those story ideas. Then I write drafts of stories or poems on a computer, either at home or at work.
- What is your best tip for getting started and/or for revision?
Take joy in writing garbage. Forget about any needs or desires you may have to write well or to complete an accomplished piece of work. Just generate an overflow of kinetic slop, then sift through it—often the best ideas or stretches of writing come from uninhibited, unambitious play. In other circles, this is called “brainstorming”.
- What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
Even before you even begin to think of writing, empathetic detachment should be a priority. Which means: in a piece of writing, avoid the temptation to address the reader using the first person plural.