Author Photo: Jesse Ball © Jon Shaft
Ten Breaths of Inspiration for the Writing Life
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST CORINNA BARSAN
Jesse Ball is a fabulist of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. He is the author of many books, most recently, The Curfew, a novel, from Vintage, and The Village on Horseback, an omnibus, from Milkweed. He teaches courses on general practice and lucid dreaming at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Author website www.jesseball.com
The Magazine of Yoga On The Lit Mat Interview
Who or what was your greatest influence in picking up the pen?
Probably no one person — rather the several thousand books that lined the walls of the house I grew up in.
In what ways do you make room for the creative process in your day-to-day?
They are not separate. There is not a thing, life, and a thing, the creative process. One tries all the time to be awake, to be undeceived, to be grateful and generous. Writing itself isn’t an end; it can’t be. It is a thing that happens because of what one sees and feels, and sometimes it can be a resource for others. So much the better. Anyway, the goal is always to see more clearly.
Which one word, image, sound, feeling, or memory defines the act of writing for you?
A spool of thread.
Where do you find inspiration when the well runs dry?
I think those terms are difficult and misleading. One shouldn’t have a practice wherein things are tallied. A poet isn’t a poet because of what he wrote. He should be a poet because, when a poem need appear, he may convey it. I am afraid some people worry about their work being taken, about it going away from them. They worry about eking out each part. Careful making is something I adore and encourage. But the work must be let go. If you believe your cache is limited, it will be. If you feel you can always create, it is more likely to be so.
Is there a tidbit of writing advice that has stayed with you over the years?
Read and write passionately and ignore the contemporary. It will be gone in a moment. Look! It’s already gone. Something else is replacing it. And… look, now that’s gone too.
What is something you know now about writing that you didn’t know when you were just starting out?
I didn’t know what I knew. That is how it always is: a lot of learning about what to discard and what to keep. The whole business is such a maze, trying to feel what you feel about how you feel—the key is in tiny discriminations—so the only way through is gentleness, in being as gentle as possible with what you know and what you might know.
Whether you do yoga or another form of physical or spiritual practice,
how does it affect your work?
I do some Chinese boxing, and I have done several martial arts, including Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, etc. It is an old classical idea—Greek and Roman—you must live in the body, you must learn how! To have a real of sharpness of mind without good physical habits, perhaps it is possible, but difficult, no? Better to connect the bridge to land on both ends.
What is your most favorite guilty pleasure?
Expensive chocolate and whiskey.
If you had to pick one book to recommend as a must-read, which would it be?
Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke. Tr. Edward Snow.
What is on your nightstand now?
Old Time Fiddle for the Complete Ignoramus. Wayne Erbsen. (I am learning the fiddle).
Play the Grünfeld. Yelena Dembo. (a chess repertoire book).
The Comic Mask in the Commedia Dell’Arte. Antonio Fava.
The pause that refreshes! You can find Corinna Barsan’s musings and discoveries on her blog at Shiny White Page.
We may publish any content, comments or ideas sent to us.
Name may be withheld by request.
© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.