American writer John Updike (1932-2009) is best remembered for his novels, though his prolific body of work includes poetry, short stories, essays, children's books, as well as art and literary criticism. Below he recounts his experience of the writing life in a 1994 interview with Neil Baldwin.
My mother wanted to be a writer, and from earliest childhood on I saw her at the typewriter; and though my main passion as a child was drawing, I suppose the idea of being a writer was planted in my head...
What is it that so fascinates us about the lives of great writers and artists? It seems creative prowess lends a new allure to even the most mundane topic: we wonder when they wake up in the morning, if they do so at the same time each day, when they eat, what they eat (at every meal), what they read, what type of pen they use, if they take breaks, what they do on breaks, if they wear shoes, what kind of shoes they wear, what is in their cupboards, what they wear to bed, if they make their bed...the list goes on.
Writing by hand is laborious, and that is why typewriters were invented. But I believe that the labor has virtue, because of its very physicality. For one thing it involves flesh, blood and the thingness of pen and paper, those anchors that remind us that, however thoroughly we lose ourselves in the vortex of our invention, we inhabit a corporeal world.
I know that I talk about my pens and notebooks the way the master of a seraglio talked about his love slaves. But let me tell you about my notebooks and my pens.
Like all creative acts, writing is mysterious. Sometimes it flows, often it doesn't. To become a productive writer one must find a way around this challenge, a task easier said than done. Creatives throughout history have often famously developed bizarre individual tricks to overcome writer's block.
Early in his career, filmmaker David Lynch relied on obscene amounts of caffeine and sugar to get himself working. He says,
Below, Alice Munro, Canadian author and winner of the Nobel and Man Booker prizes, reflects on creativity and her writing process in a 1994 interview with Jeanne McCullock and Mona Simpson of The Paris Review.
The following excerpts were taken from Hilton Als' 2006 interview of Joan Didion for The Paris Review. Didion has published over sixteen books including fiction, nonfiction and drama, as well as several screenplays. Before the publication of her first novel, Didion was a journalist. Her writing has spanned both disciplines throughout her career.