At the beginning of a new writing project—whether it’s the first page of a new novel or a less ambitious project, writers often experience exhilaration, fear, or dread. For Kristjana Gunnars, the call of a new project is “like someone you don’t know knocking on your door—you either choose to let the person in or not. It’s both exciting and dangerous to start a new manuscript.” This book is an engagement with that “stranger” called writing.
Creative or imaginative writing is a complex process that involves more than intellect alone. Writers make use of everything: their sensibilities, history, culture, knowledge, experience, education, and even their biology. These essays seek out, and gather into a discussion, what writers have said about their own experiences in writing. Although the writers are from around the world and of very different backgrounds, the commonality of their remarks brings home the realization that writers everywhere are grappling with similar problems—with the seemingly simple problems of when, where, why, and what to write, but also larger questions such as the relationship between writer and society, or issues of privacy, appropriation, or homelessness. While none of these questions can be definitively answered, they can be fruitfully discussed.
Originating as questions posed in creative-writing seminars, these essays have grown into companion texts for both writers and readers who want to participate in a conversation about what writers do.