How did you start writing?
By drawing. By drawing cartoons. Before I could read or write I used to draw comics at school and at home. The funny thing is that I now realize that when I was in high school I had the reputation of being a writer, though I never in fact wrote anything. If there was a pamphlet to be written or a letter of petition, I was the one to do it because I was supposedly the writer. When I entered college I happened to have a very good literary background in general, considerably above the average of my friends. At the university in Bogotá, I started making new friends and acquaintances, who introduced me to contemporary writers. One night a friend lent me a book of short stories by Franz Kafka. I went back to the pension where I was staying and began to read The Metamorphosis. The first line almost knocked me off the bed. I was so surprised. The first line reads, “As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. . . .” When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago. So I immediately started writing short stories. They are totally intellectual short stories because I was writing them on the basis of my literary experience and had not yet found the link between literature and life. The stories were published in the literary supplement of the newspaper El Espectador in Bogotá and they did have a certain success at the time—probably because nobody in Colombia was writing intellectual short stories. What was being written then was mostly about life in the countryside and social life. When I wrote my first short stories I was told they had Joycean influences.
Of course, Gabriel García Márquez’s writer’s origin story begins with drawing cartoons.
What is it about drawing that fuels other creative pursuits?
From: The Paris Review Issue 82, Winter 1981
Interview by: Peter Stone
But no matter how many babies he delivered,
no matter how many sick people he cured,
Willie could not stop writing poems.
A River of Words is a short, illustrated book about the life of Dr. William Carlos Williams.
His life, as both doctor and poet is inspirational.
I keep this book close by.
You should too.
From: A River of Words
Written by: Jen Bryant
Illustrated by: Melissa Sweet
I would like to begin by asking how you started. How did you become a writer? What was the first thing that you ever wrote and when?
Everything important always begins from something trivial. When I was about twelve I loved horror movies. I used to go down to New Haven from my suburb and watch films like Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Wolf Man Meets Abbott and Costello. So the boy next door said, Well, if you like that stuff, you’ve got to read Edgar Allan Poe. I had never heard of Edgar Allan Poe, but when I read him I fell in love. I wanted to grow up and be Edgar Allan Poe. The first poem that I wrote doesn’t really sound like Poe, but it’s morbid enough. Of course I have friends who say it’s the best thing I ever did: “Have you ever thought / Of the nearness of death to you? / It reeks through each corner, / It shrieks through the night, / It follows you through the day / Until that moment when, / In monotones loud, / Death calls your name. / Then, then, comes the end of all.” The end of Hall, maybe. That started me writing poems and stories. For a couple of years I wrote them in a desultory fashion because I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a great actor or a great poet.
Then when I was fourteen I had a conversation at a Boy Scout meeting with a fellow who seemed ancient to me; he was sixteen. I was bragging and told him that I had written a poem during study hall at high school that day. He asked—I can see him standing there—You write poems? and I said, Yes, do you? and he said, in the most solemn voice imaginable, It is my profession. He had just quit high school to devote himself to writing poetry full time! I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. It was like that scene in Bonnie and Clyde where Clyde says, We rob banks. Poetry is like robbing banks. It turned out that my friend knew some eighteen-year-old Yale freshmen, sophisticated about literature, and so at the age of fourteen I hung around Yale students who talked about T. S. Eliot. I saved up my allowance and bought the little blue, cloth-covered collected Eliot for two dollars and fifty cents and I was off. I decided that I would be a poet for the rest of my life and started by working at poems for an hour or two every day after school. I never stopped.
One question in and I already have to recommend the rest of this interview.
From: The Paris Review Issue 120, Fall 1991
Interview by: Peter A. Stitt
You’re standing in one place, one patch of grass on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Seville, playing a game, which is to say doing your job, which is playing a game. A ball floats in the air toward you. You’re in one place and you’re in all possible places. Your name is stamped between your shoulder blades. You turn your back away from the ball. We all know who you are. You balance yourself and focus. What you’re about to do has no name.From: They Think They Know You, Lionel Messi. By: Rowan Ricardo Phillips. The Paris Review, February 26 2019
I love finding pieces on footballers from outside of traditional football journalism. Especially when a masterful writer can share a new vision.
Rowan Ricardo Phillips accomplishes a rare feat with his Paris Review piece: They Think They Know You, Lionel Messi. He helps us relish, treasure again, this moment where we still have the opportunity to watch Lionel Messi at the peak of his powers.
Rowan reminds us not to take it for granted.
From the Paris Review’s video series – My First Time
Sheila’s original ambition was to become a playwright. She started writing stories after being kicked out/quitting theater school.
To master the writing process, Sheila would sit and write 6 or 7 stories in a row, as fast as she could type. Her thought was if she wrote hundreds of stories, then 20 or 30 would be good, exactly how they were written.
Sheila is all about lists.
She’d write down lists of titles of all the fables she could find. For the title of her first book, she wrote down hundres of titles to generate ideas.
She’d also sketch out book covers with the titles in them, to help visualize the finished book.
I have to work harder than any other writer in the world. I just wanted so badly to figure this out. To figure out how to write.Sheila Heti