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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Pamela Erens

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing has always been like breathing to me—I need to fix thoughts, feelings, and ideas in words, whether it’s in a journal or a work of fiction or scribbles on the nearest scrap of paper. It’s how I make sense of things. I recently heard Siri Hustvedt speak about how writing, as one-to-one communication, is the formal opposite of the demagogic speech, meant for mass audiences, that we’ve experienced in this country recently. Writing reaches one reader at a time and is experienced in privacy. It’s a chance for one quiet voice to reach one patient listener. This is very, very important now.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? The gentle methods: Reading the work of others until enough excitement is generated that one’s own pen or fingers on the keyboard keys start to move. A good bout of exercise before sitting down to work, to drain off nervous resistance. The ungentle method: Just force it, and let yourself write drek, or what you believe is drek. Later the drek may become something better.

What is your favorite time to write? In the morning, after I’ve meditated and done some exercise to get my energies up.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? I have two best pieces of advice.
1. Imitate. It’s hard to find the words and the voice and the form to capture one’s own material until one has learned the options other, better artists made use of.
2. If someone tells you what you wrote isn’t working and how to fix it, they’re probably right that it’s not working and they’re probably wrong about how to fix it. Only you can figure that out.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? The stubborn physicality and beauty of the printed book in a time when more and more of our lives are digital and virtual. What a resilient invention books have proved to be!

Pamela Erens’s Matasha is out now with IgKids.