Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.
I know y’all have been wanting to sneak into Yuvi Zalkow’s writerhead ever since you caught word of the publication of his new novel A BRILLIANT NOVEL IN THE WORKS. [And, yes, I know I’ve been using the term y’all a lot lately; see Dinty Moore’s intro last week. Sometimes I’m southern.]
Though I do think that in Chapter 1 when Yuvi (the character in the book, not the author) says to his wife, “Hush, I’m trying to work,” he really should have said, “Hush, I’m in writerhead.” Maybe Yuvi (the author) will update this in a later printing.
Regardless, I’m delighted Yuvi agreed to yak about his writerhead when I asked. A BRILLIANT NOVEL IN THE WORKS—like Lydia Netzer’s Shine Shine Shine—is going to be one of my favorite novels of the year.
Now, as you know, there’s to be no stomping around in Yuvi’s writerhead. Any stomping, hollering, hooting, or other disruptive behavior and you’re out!
Good. Let’s go.
1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).
It’s funny because much of my writing is not really in writerhead, or at least not in my version of writerhead.
Oops. Now I’ve made it so I have to describe two things: writing in writerhead and writing in non-writerhead.
OK. First writerhead: Writerhead is when I lose track of time or day. I skip meals. I forget to do the shopping that I promised my wife I would do. Sometimes this happens on my laptop in a cafe. Or sometimes on my iPhone in the bathroom stall of my day job. It can happen with a notebook and pencil with me pulled over on the side of the road. Or a park bench in the shade. It is where I get so immersed in my story that I barely register external sights and sounds. Or else it might be while I’m blasting that instrumental Beastie Boys album (seriously!). It could be when digging through a critical scene in my novel or when I find the perfect voice for my storyteller. Or when I finally realize how the story must end. Writerhead is more than just in my head. It feels likes every part of my body and everything around me. I worship writerhead.
But most of the time, I write in non-writerhead. Writing in non-writerhead is when I’m thinking about that email I have to respond to. Or when I decide to check my twitter timeline. I’m thinking about my flaws as a parent or husband or as a human being. I worry about friends who are sick. I think about my taxes or the bad book review I just received. I awkwardly chip away at a scene and I see that the writing is bad. Or worse than bad: it is empty. I try again. My two hour window has suddenly become twenty minutes because I wasted time telling a poop joke on twitter. But it’s even worse than that: it was a poop joke that no one liked enough to retweet! While I’m working on my novel, I start thinking about an unrelated essay I want to write. I read a blog post that makes me depressed. I should call my parents and check in. My throat hurts. I’m sleepy. That picture on the wall is crooked. Maybe I should straighten it. Time to pick up the kid from daycare. I have squandered so much time!
I think both these spaces are essential to the writer. This is what I wasn’t warned about. Those crappy moments at the table are essential too. I produce meaningful stuff in non-writerhead, even if it is far less efficient. Sometimes I can channel that difficult emotion of being in non-writerhead and use it effectively in my scene in a way that writerhead might not have offered me. Or perhaps non-writerhead is where I organize and tame the few bursts of brilliance I produced during writerhead.
2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)
I get resentful as a first response. And then I begin to feel like a failure… What is wrong with me? If this happened to [other-writer-I’m-jealous-of], they would be able to keep writing beautiful things. But for me, it spells disaster.
But I can also sometimes use that frustration from being interrupted as fuel for my writing. For instance, I’m writing about a character right now who has these grand aspirations but is always falling on his face, never achieving what he dreams to achieve. So my own interruption from writerhead can produce a disappointment in me that is useful when writing from the point of view of my character.
3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.
Forgive this total cop out, but writerhead is a place I’m not sure exists except during those moments when I’m in it and then I’m so immersed in it that it feels like there is no metaphor that could properly pay tribute to it. But then it’s gone and all the second-rate metaphors come back: the river, the sun, the light, the seed, the marathon, the plane, the clouds, the thunder, the explosion, the sex. But to hell with all those f***ing metaphors! I just want to get back into writerhead!
BIO: Yuvi Zalkow’s debut novel (A BRILLIANT NOVEL IN THE WORKS) is now available online and in stores. He received his MFA from Antioch University and his stories have been published in Glimmer Train, Narrative Magazine, The Los Angeles Review, Carve Magazine, and others. He is the creator of the “I’m a Failed Writer” online video series and has been rejected more than 600 times by reputable and disreputable journals. Visit his website at http://yuvizalkow.com.
HIGH-FIVE: If you’d like to give Yuvi a high-five (or encourage him to rewrite that line that I mentioned above so that it includes the term writerhead), here’s where you can find him: website, Twitter (@yuvizalkow), and Facebook.