Tayari Jones is the author of several novels including Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, and Silver Sparrow.
What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?
Relax and keep trying. Writers block is like trying to use a pen that won't work. You just keep scribbling—the same motion that has yielded nothing and then *bam* all of a sudden the pen is working. You just keep trying to write-—go to your table and try. Eventually the block will pass. And if you're not trying to write, how will you even know that the block is over?
What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?
My favorite writing prompt is: "What he didn't know was _____" This prompt helps me unearth something that I hadn't even thought about and can move me in an exciting new direction. Another I like for a similar reason is "Five years ago, she__________" and "Five years years from now, she probably would be _______________."
What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?
When I was about a hundred pages into my second novel, I wanted to send it to my agent to try and get a contract. Ron said, "Is the writing going well? Are you pleased with it line by line? Do you like the characters?" I answered yes, yes, yes, to all these questions. Then he said, "Then why do you want to bring the market into this? If you get a deal or not, the next step is, and always will be, FINISH THE BOOK. So why don't you just do that?"