Wry Advice From Jane Smiley


18 January 2010

I thought this Q&A was rather funny, and unexpected, from Jane Smiley (via Gotham Writers’ Workshop):

Q. What is your best method for overcoming writers block?
A. Learning something–either by reading a book or going somewhere or talking or gossiping.

I love the gossipping part! If gossipping can be creatively productive, there’s hope for us all.

Q. What is your favorite or most helpful writing prompt?
A: I always get into the hot tub and read a bit of a novel before I start the day’s work. If I feel reluctant, I reflect on the bills I have to pay. If I feel really reluctant, I time myself and say that I only have to work for an hour.

Lying in the tub and thinking about financial obligations. I love the ironic contradiction of that.

Q. What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?
A: Leonard Michaels told me that I had to change my name from my married name (Jane Whiston) to my maiden name (Jane Smiley) because JS was easier to remember and had more personality. I think he was right. My piece of naming advice would be that if your name is Kevin, you need to use another pen name, because the first name Kevin always seems to overwhelm its last name, and so no one can remember which Kevin you are, and therefore cannot find your books on Amazon.

I am only half joking.

This makes me laugh out loud, and then cry a little.


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