Photo: Erin Byers Murray ©Adam DeTour
Ten Breaths of Inspiration for the Writing Life
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST CORINNA BARSAN
Erin Byers Murray is a Boston area journalist, specializing in food and wine writing. Her first book, Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm, was published in October. She also contributes regularly to Food and Wine, Boston Magazine, Edible Boston, and many more.
Author website: www.shucked.wordpress.com
The Magazine of Yoga On The Lit Mat Interview
Who or what was your greatest influence in picking up the pen?
I’ve been writing since I could pick up a pen but my earliest and greatest influencers were two very enthusiastic high school English teachers: Rosemary Crawford and Bruce Chipman of the Tatnall School in Wilmington, DE. They pointed me toward (among others) Faulkner, Hemingway, Rand, and Shelley. Without their guidance, I might have only scratched the literary surface.
In what ways do you make room for the creative process in your
For me, the creative process is mostly about discipline, about showing up to the keyboard or picking up a pen for a dedicated period of time every single day. Usually, my best time is very first thing in the morning—before email, the news, daylight, even. I have to consciously carve that time for myself. If I don’t, I can very easily lose focus or let my non-creative life get in the way.
Which one word, image, sound, feeling, or memory defines the act of writing for you?
The heft and feel of a piece of paper. While most of what I write starts with a keyboard, I do all of my editing and my journaling with a pen and paper. That feeling of flipping a page, to me, marks progress.
Where do you find inspiration when the well runs dry?
Travel. My best ideas come to me when I’m staring out a window watching the scenery whiz by.
Is there a tidbit of writing advice that has stayed with you over the years?
Before I wrote about food, I was very focused on becoming a food writer so I went to see Ruth Reichl, the former editor of Gourmet, do a book reading and signing. As she signed my book, I asked if she had any advice for an aspiring food writer, such as going to culinary school. She said: “First, know how to write. Perfect that craft. Everything else, you can learn on the job.”
What is something you know now about writing that you didn’t know when you were just starting out?
That if I don’t step away, it will never get better. And that deadlines are my very best friends.
Whether you do yoga or another form of physical or spiritual practice, how does it affect your work?
Just like showing up on the mat is the most important part of a yoga practice, showing up at the page is the most important part of writing. My yoga will either sing or suffer depending on where I put my mind at the beginning of a practice; the same goes for my writing.
What is your most favorite guilty pleasure?
Taking a nap in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday.
If you had to pick one book to recommend as a must-read,
which would it be?
The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand.
What is on your nightstand now?
Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year, by Anne Lamott (My sister-in-law gave me this book right after my son, Charlie, was born … which was three months before my first book was published. It is a soul-warming read that I happen to completely empathize with.)
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte (I’ve been swimming in contemporary non-fiction for the past two years. It’s time for me to get lost in some older language.)
The pause that refreshes! You can find Corinna Barsan’s musings and discoveries on her blog at Shiny White Page.
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Name may be withheld by request.
© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.