Author Photo: ©Alainna Lynch
Ten Breaths of Inspiration for the Writing Life
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST CORINNA BARSAN
Lauren Shockey is the author of Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris. She is also a restaurant critic at the Village Voice. She holds a Bachelor’s in French literature from the University of Chicago, a culinary diploma from the French Culinary Institute, and a Master’s in food studies from New York University.
Author website: www.LaurenShockey.com
The Magazine of Yoga On The Lit Mat Interview
Who or what was your greatest influence in picking up the pen?
My twelfth grade English teacher was highly inspirational. He gave me some of my first books about food (Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone and Jeffrey Steingarten’s The Man Who Ate Everything) and really encouraged me to follow my passion. And books themselves—I’ve long loved wordplay and reading and knew I wanted to create with prose.
In what ways do you make room for the creative process in your day-to-day?
I think it’s good to set aside structured time. I write best in the morning, so I’ll reserve an hour or two of my time around ten and just sit in front of the computer with a Word document open. Writing may seem like an easy job, but it requires tremendous discipline.
Which one word, image, sound, feeling, or memory defines the act of writing for you?
The constant sound of typing—without breaks or pauses or the pressing down of the delete button. That unending stream of tap-tap-tap as your fingers glide across the keys—that’s when you know you have something good.
Where do you find inspiration when the well runs dry?
Reading other books—ones not necessarily similar to the one you’re trying to write—can be helpful, often illuminating new ways of creating scenes or dramatic tension. And doing activities completely unrelated to writing or your subject matter. Sometimes just going on long, quiet walks is the best source of inspiration since it clears your head of all distractions.
Is there a tidbit of writing advice that has stayed with you over the years?
Your work will be rejected many, many, many times before it’s accepted. But remember that just because one person doesn’t like your book doesn’t mean that thousands of other readers won’t love it.
What is something you know now about writing that you didn’t know when you were just starting out?
When you have put the last word on the page, you are still very, very far from being done. It will be re-written and edited and re-edited and copy edited and then maybe two years down the road, you will be done with that last page. Writing books is a very long process and it can be hard to see the light at the end. But when you hold the finished book in your hand for the first time, all else will be forgotten.
Whether you do yoga or another form of physical or spiritual practice, how does it affect your work?
I think yoga and meditation help reinforce the idea that what we do for our chosen careers doesn’t necessarily define who we are. How we act and how we positively influence others and the world around us shows true character—not job titles.
What is your most favorite guilty pleasure?
Doritos. I know they are terrible for me, but gosh, how can anyone say no to a crunchy Cool Ranch-flavored chip? That, and watching ABC Family. Yes, I am a teenager deep down.
If you had to pick one book to recommend as a must-read,
which would it be?
Milan Kundera’s Immortality, his final book written in Czech, his native language (subsequent ones are in French). It’s a mesmerizing and strikingly beautiful book about life and death and the legacy we leave behind. Particularly, it addresses themes of perception and image in the modern world, a particularly important notion for any writer.
What is on your nightstand now?
I’m currently reading Emile Zola’s The Belly of Paris, which has great descriptions of food and life, all centered around the old Les Halles market in France. I’m also nearly finished with Tahar Ben Jelloun’s recent novel, A Palace in the Old Village, a poignant tale of a retired Moroccan immigrant in France who is now faced with how to live out the rest of his days.
The pause that refreshes! You can find Corinna Barsan’s musings and discoveries on her blog at Shiny White Page.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.