I don’t know where I got this book, The Faith of a Writer by Joyce Carol Oates nor can I even say that I’ve read her work extensively. But this author of 58 novels who was first published at age 26 and taught at Princeton for 36 years certainly has so many great stories to tell about writing with sections on inspiration, self-criticism, memory and more. But it’s the description of her process that caught my attention and charmed me.
The Writer’s Studio
It’s a room much longer than it is wide, extending from the courtyard of our partly glass-walled house in suburban/rural Hopewell Township, New Jersey (approximately three miles from Princeton) into an area of pine trees, holly bushes, and Korean dogwood through which deer, singly, or does-with-fawns, or small herds, are always drifting. Like the rest of the house my study has a good deal of glass: my immediate study area, where my desk is located, is brightly lighted during the day by seven windows and a skylight.
All the desks of my life have faced windows and except for an overwrought two-year period in the late 1980’s when I worked on a word processor, I have always spent most of my time staring out the window, noting what is there, daydreaming, or brooding. Most of the so-called imaginative life is encompassed by these three activities that blend so seamlessly together, not unlike reading the dictionary, as I often do as well, entire mornings can slip by, in a blissful daze of preoccupation. It’s bizarre to me that people think that I am “prolific” and that I must use every spare minute of my time when in fact, as my intimates have always known, I spent most of my time looking out the window. (I recommend it.)The Faith of a Writer by Joyce Carol Oates
And as a bonus selection – here’s a small part of her reflection on inspiration.
Yes, it exists. Somehow.
To be inspired: we know what it means, even how it sometimes feels, but what is it, exactly? Filled suddenly and often helplessly with renewed life and energy, a sense of excitement that can barely be contained; but why somethings – a word, a glance, a scene glimpsed from a window, a random memory, a fragrance, a conversational anecdote, a fragment of music, or of a dream – have the power to stimulate us to intense creativity while most others do not, we are unable to say. We all know what it was like to have been inspired, in the past; yet we can’t have faith that we will be inspired in the future. Most writers apply themselves doggedly to their work, hoping that inspiration will return. It can be like striking a damp match again, again, again: hoping a small flame with leap out, before the match breaks.The Faith of a Writer by Joyce Carol Oates
(featured photo from Pexels)