More from Emma Donoghue
Published: November 29, 2004
|On finding inspiration:|
For Life Mask, I came across a bit of scandalous gossip in the diaries of a woman called Mrs. Piozzi. I probably first came across that 10 years ago, and I thought "Aha! There's a novel here, there's a story to be told." So I made notes on it and set it aside. The inspiration can often come long, long before I actually have the opportunity to write the book.
I also find it very inspiring to go see places and landscapes that are relevant to the books. Certainly with Life Mask and with the novel before that, Slammerkin, I did go to various locations where my characters once lived, and I found that very helpful. It helped me imagine the landscape, what places were like physically.
[Additionally,] it's surprising how many details of your own life experiences and people you've talked to end up in your book, even in historical books. That's why it's great in a way--anything can be relevant to your work when you're a writer. I could just be sitting around chatting with a friend, and they will say something interesting that will actually end up in my book. There's inspiration and sources everywhere you look. It's wonderfully random that way.
|On avoiding writer's block:|
One way I avoid writer's block is by working on more than one project. Very often, I have a radio play and a novel on the go at once. [Also,] I take little breaks from a novel. Whenever a novel is getting a bit too tiring or dull to me, I sneak off and write a short story. And it really does feel like an illicit weekend. I know I'm meant to be writing the novel, but ooh--I'll just write this little story. This way the short stories get written very painlessly. And I get a break from the novel and then when I come back to it, I see it more freshly. I think there's a lot to be said for little breaks. Now, I don't mean, obviously, to keep running away from the novel--it'll never get finished, but little breaks are very refreshing. And also this way you feel that, "Oh, it's not that I have writer's block, it just that I'm meant to work on something else today." Or sometimes if my brain feels sluggish, I'll go to the library and do some research for what I'm working on, or even for the next thing I'm working on. Again, that's a way to alternate writing with some other aspects of the trade.
But I would say that I've never felt completely unable to put words together. As writers go, I'm extremely kind of pragmatic and undramatic about the process of writing. I don't find it tortuous like many [writers] do. I don't feel that I'm squeezing these stories out of my very soul. I feel like I'm a craft person, and I'm making these stories up.