What is your most recent writing project, or what is a piece you’ve had published recently?
My book, Bridled, was published by Pleiades Press in February 2018.
What’s your favorite thing someone else has said about your writing?
Gabrielle Calvocoressi, one of my poet-heroes, said: “These are poems where love is real and symphonic and then entirely gone. How do we recover from that? Amy Meng shows us. She shows us every part of the journey with such compassion and deep honesty. Too many books are called brave. But this one? This one simply is.”
What is one craft or writing book you love?
Maybe nontraditional, but I love Ways of Seeing by John Berger.
Who is one other writer you’re excited about right now?
What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten? What’s the best?
During my MFA I went to a professor who almost exclusively wrote formal poetry. I wanted to have a gritty discussion with him about the craft of formal poetry. Instead of engaging me in discussion, he told me students should generally avoid writing formal poetry because it had to be much better quality than free verse or experimental poetry and was more difficult overall. I ultimately never shared any poetry with this instructor.
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 think my problem is less with space than with time. Though I generally need to be somewhere other than my room to write, (I particularly recommend Paragraph: Workspace for Writers for NYC/Brooklyn writers) it doesn’t matter where I am if I haven’t done a good job setting aside time for writing. I need to schedule realistic amounts of time (e.g. not 8pm on Friday nights after a quick happy hour). I like to write at Paragraph for a few hours immediately after my 9 to 5 when I can.
What are some of your writing habits?
I have no habits. I would benefit from habits. I write in little spurts and then don’t write for months — sometimes over a year—at a time. To be fair, I do nest-build during that time: I keep notes in my phone of ideas, lines, or images that come to me.
When you are sitting down to write, what is the first thing you do?
I turn on my computer. I almost always write on my laptop and feel great about it.
How do you pay the bills/financially support yourself?
I divested from writing as a career, partly because I have a lot of financial anxiety and partly because writing while working in any career that depended on the goodwill of the literary community seemed like an enormous conflict of interest. Now, I work as a Project Manager at an education technology startup.
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?
I’m bad at transitions. When I first begin a job, a relationship, a move, I take months and months to settle into a new routine. I’m bad at imposing structure and habit on my personal life, so when new elements are introduced I flounder indefinitely until I’ve broken enough things that I begin to triage my life and impose structure. That’s usually when I re-balance my work/life.
What are the most pressing demands for your time, energy, labor (including emotional labor)? What has worked best for you in terms of balancing those demands with writing?
I divide most of my time between my 9 to 5 work, romantic relationship, and guilt. I think it’s useful to define what I want each of these relationships to look like: How important is work to me? What kind of relationship do I want with my partner? What else do I miss the most? Once I gain clarity on these boundaries, it’s much easier to know how to prioritize and say no to certain things. My therapist says guilt is usually an unhelpful tax I exact from myself, so I try to listen to her.
What are the ideal conditions for your creativity?
I like sound that I don’t have to listen to. Playing one song on repeat, or instrumental music (I like Max Richter), or noisli.com is great. Dim lighting and small spaces also help—basically whatever conditions are ideal for a snail are my ideal writing conditions. I also really like the Pomodoro technique and just purchased my second paid app ever: Forest. It’s an app that plants little digital trees whenever you go a stretch of time without breaking focus (with bonus of using your credits to plant real trees).
Do you have any writing rituals? Or any non-writing rituals that feed your writing life?
No, but I’m trying to develop this—I want to train myself to start writing whenever I hear smell burning sandalwood or something.
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?
Self-care (or the lack of it) is a huge part of my writing life. When I’m in poor emotional or mental health, I don’t write. Usually when I stop writing it’s the first red flag that I’m about to drop into a depressive spiral. I’m looking into medication that’s compatible with existing meds I take for a chronic pain condition, but so far I don’t have a way to guarantee that I will be consistently well-adjusted and capable of writing / doing laundry / answering my emails on time.
Amy Meng holds degrees from Rutgers University and New York University. She is the author of Bridled (Pleiades Press, 2018) and a Kundiman Fellow. Her poetry has appeared in publications including: Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, New England Review, and Narrative Magazine. She currently lives in Brooklyn.
For more info: https://www.amymeng.com/