Monday, January 21, 2013

Fiction Writer Claire Watkins, Assistant Professor of English, on walking into the unknown and waiting for “the click”

Photo credit:  Lily Glass

What writing project(s) are you working on right now?
I'm currently at work on my first novel. I've previously only written short stories, so this is my first stab at the longer form, ever. I wish I could tell you more about it, but I am too superstitious.

What do you love about it?  
Compared to short stories, writing a novel seems very freeing. You have the room to expand and explore, though you don't have to. It feels more forgiving of whims, digressions, experiments, so composition on this project has been a more extemporaneous process. That's a real thrill.

What about it (if anything) is driving you nuts?
Pretty much everything. I don't know myself as a novelist. For example, I write short stories from outlines but that practice hasn't exactly translated to novel writing, so it's really freaky not to have a plan, not to have a better sense of where the project is going (or when it will end). Of course, the same process exists when I'm writing stories--giddy inspiration, walking into the unknown, the click when everything makes sense again--but it's extended over years, rather than months. So I've been walking into the unknown for some time now, and I sure could use a click.  

What would you like students to know about you as a writer?
I'd like them to know that I fail at writing all the time, every day. I'd like to remind them that my published work--or anyone's--is elaborately constructed to hide its flaws, so those are difficult to see, especially when you've just begun. But those flaws are certainly there, and always will be. I'd also like to tell them that while I was not a huge reader for most of my young life, reading and writing have become the most important, most sustaining non-human things in my life. Whether students consider themselves "writers" or not, I hope they carry the nourishing practice of reading and writing, which are, fundamentally, acts of empathy, with them wherever they go.

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