Jeanne Marie Beaumont, poet and author of the collections Burning of the Three Fires and Curious Conduct, among others, shares advice for writers.
Q: What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?
A: My best methods for overcoming writer’s block are to play around with found language, or to very closely try and imitate a piece of writing that I admire. Sometimes I comb through my notebook and try to pick up odd phrases and sentences I have never turned into anything and see what “happens” when I link them together. I feel like all writing is collaborating with the soul of the language and that as soon as you start to engage with words and listen to them, you’ll get a hold of something interesting and can work from there. It’s trust really, that the language itself has something it wants to express through you.
Q: What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?
A: I have many prompts collected over the years. I find it is often generative to force myself to use a repeated phrase over and over to begin my sentences. It becomes a sort of chant and enchantment of rhythm that can carry you along. Later you can often remove them. For example a string of sentences starting with “Because...” or “In my kitchen...” Just about anything, if you commit to it, can work. This also works to overcome writer’s block, by the way.
Q: What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?
A: The most valuable words of advice I recall hearing pretty early on are from Thomas Hardy, “If a way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst.” This is true of life and writing. Often things look terrible before they get better. And “Better” is the dynamic position you want to be in. “Good” and “Best” are static positions, Better is in motion.