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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Anya Liftig

author Anya Liftig and an image of her book Holler Rat

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing is the way I discover what I actually think about something. The same way that mathematicians use formulas to solve complex problems, writers use works to solve problems, or more accurately, to attempt to.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? Watching old episodes of the Muppet Show. I realize this may sound silly, but it brings me back to childhood, the delicious few moments right before bedtime when my head was filled with nothing but the clatter of my own voice. If I watch Kermit do something cute, Animal bang on the drums and a tad of Swedish Chef, I can usually convince myself to put a 10 minute timer on my iPhone. I tell myself that I only have to write for 10 minutes, then I have permission to give up. Usually, after about 9 minutes of utter hell, I start to find a little thread that pulls me through for just a minute more, then another minute, then another, until I have a few hundred words down. So my remedy: Singing Puppets!

What is your favorite time to write? Middle of the day, like 2pm, back corner of a Panera Bread, two beverages: a cup of coffee and a glass of lemonade. If I’m going through a tough section or am particularly distraught, I will also have a candy cookie. (I’ll eat the doughy parts around the candy and save the actual candy for later.)

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? It’s actually a piece of advice I received in art school. A quote from John Cage, “Don’t critique while you create.” I have also learned a great deal from reading complications of work by newspaper journalists. Reading the work of people who put out hundreds of words on a daily deadline always inspires me to be less precious about first drafts, to just get it all down on the page as fast as possible and worry about it later. I imagine Ernie Pyle in Italy during WW2 with bombs exploding all around him still turning copy in on time. That guy had it tough.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? In a time when the craft of writing seems to be threatened by computers that might be able to think like humans, it excites me to actually be a real human. We are flawed disasters most of the time, but we can also be beautiful together.

Anya Liftig’s Holler Rat is out now with ‎ Harry N. Abrams.