What is your most recent writing project or a piece you’ve had published recently?
I’m currently working on ordering a poetry manuscript and revising a novel (at the same time for some unknown and foolish reason). This poem, published at Uncanny, is one of the center poems of the manuscript.
What’s your favorite thing someone else has said about your writing?
A professor once complimented me on really considering the work that people do and how that influences their lives/characters. It’s something I’ve always tried to do and so I was delighted someone had noticed. I think it’s often easy to overlook a character’s job, but we spend so much of our lives working that that has always seemed unrealistic and simplistic to me.
What is one craft or writing book you love?
I love Stephen King’s On Writing (enough that it’s the textbook I’m using in the creative writing course I’m teaching). I think King is often looked down upon because he’s prolific, but I think he’s a phenomenal storyteller and I think this book beautifully conveys why telling stories is important and how people can strive to do so.
Who is one other writer you’re excited about right now?
There are so, so many. In poetry: I love Michael Schmeltzer’s work so, so much. He writes in a deeply human way in his understanding of loss and the ties that tether us to others.
In fiction: Chinelo Okperanta is so, so amazing. Both her debut story collection and novel blew me away.
What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten? What’s the best?
Worst: “Stop writing about monsters. No one cares about that.” Several people in workshops have told me this. I find it a frustrating critique because: #1. It’s lazy workshopping. It means the critiquer is only reading my piece on a surface level and #2. You could say that about anything a person writes about. Monsters, for me, are a lens in which to view the world. I think in writing, it’s a good idea to follow what interests you and what passions/curiosities drive you. . . not what you think other people might want.
Best: “Write because you love it and need it.” A professor told one of my classes this in undergrad, in a speech about how exhausting and often irritating writing can be. The idea was that you shouldn’t force writing but pursue it when it felt like you had to.
Do you have a dedicated work space? Do you write in your home or do you prefer to write elsewhere? Can you write while traveling?
I do have a dedicated work space. I write in my bedroom, at my desk, almost always. I will write in my office at work, as well, if time permits (i.e. when students aren’t coming to office hours and I’m actually caught up on e-mails, etc.).
I can’t write at cafés. I find it hard to be comfortable enough to write when I’m in a public space (a lot of my writing process is me staring at the wall and talking to myself.)
I can write while travelling—but it changes the way I write. I find I write differently, in a good way, when I’m by water, so that’s the ideal travel spot.
What are some of your writing habits? (Do you write at a particular time? Do you write every day?, etc.)
My habits are that I’m not habitual in the way I write, as far as time or amount. I write when the writing takes me—so sometimes I won’t write for days and sometimes I’ll write ten hours in one day. But, I’m also constantly writing, in that I think my brain is almost always working through a story or poem idea in some corner. I even dream in my stories sometimes.
As far as when I write, my habits tend to be that I like having music on (always vocal—never just instrumental) and I usually have something to drink nearby (coffee or water).
When you are sitting down to write, what is the first thing you do?
I turn on something to listen to and I write down the title. I almost always title something before I start writing (which maybe isn’t the best habit, but I do me). I think it creates a sense of eventual comfort—like, look, I’m so confident that this will get finished that I’ve already put a title on it.
How do you pay the bills/financially support yourself?
I am lucky enough to have a job that I am deeply passionate about and which supports my writing—I teach at a university: college composition/communication and creative writing.
I also do freelance copywriting and editing when the need arises.
When in your life have you felt your work/life balance to be most in sync? When in your life have you felt the most out of sync?
Probably the past year and going into this second year. Having a full-time job, while not also being a student, has freed up a lot of my mental energy for writing.
Most out of sync was probably in my first year of grad school because there was all this new stuff going on and it was my first time living in a different state than my family—who I’m very close to—so it was a big adjustment.
What are the ideal conditions for your creativity?
I joke that the more stressed I am, the more productive I am. I think that writing is something soothing for me because it’s a genuine joy. So it’s a coping mechanism of sorts.
I also find that I’m most creative when I pace myself. I take summers off from writing fiction or poetry, instead focusing on consuming new art (books, TV shows, movies, albums) to recharge my creative battery.
My best creative writing periods usually fall in the month or two after that break—when I have all these pent up ideas that I’ve kept myself from writing.
Do you have any writing rituals or any non-writing rituals that feed your writing life?
In a literal sense of feeding, I’m a cook and baker. It’s what I do to destress and it’s also what I concentrate on when I need to work through problems in my writing. There’s something freeing for the rest of my mind when I’m intensely focusing on creating a piece of wonderful deliciousness. So that’s a big non-writing ritual for me.
I also like to do what I call “writing walks.” When I have a story or poem that needs something that I can’t put my finger on, I’ll go for a walk that’s familiar and I’ll repeat the story or poem in my head as I’m walking—just kind of over and over—and eventually it’ll sort itself out.
What self-care practices do you have and what, if any, routines do you have surrounding them? How does self-care relate to your writing life?
I think both of the ones, from the question above, fall into this.
The other big ones are rereading books I love or rewatching films/TV series I love. They’re like re-finding someone you’ve loved.
Chloe N. Clark holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Environment. She teaches multimodal composition, communication, and creative writing. Her poetry and fiction has appeared such places as Apex, Bombay Gin, Drunken Boat, Gamut, Hobart, Uncanny, and more. She writes columns for Ploughshares and Nerds of a Feather, and can be found on Twitter @PintsNCupcakes. Her chapbook The Science of Unvanishing Objects is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.