How Joyce Carol Oates’ characters come to life

In quotes about writing, writing on May 23, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Joyce Carol Oates on writing:
“I don’t have any formal writing habits. Most of the time I do nothing, and the fact of time passing so relentlessly is a source of anguish to me. There are not enough hours in the day. Yet I waste most of my time, in daydreaming, in drawing faces on pieces of paper…

“When I’m with people I often fall into a kind of waking sleep, a daydreaming about the people, the strangers, who are to be the ‘characters’ in a story or a novel I will be writing … At times my head seems crowded; there is a kind of pressure inside it, almost a frightening physical sense of confusion, fullness, dizziness. Strange people appear in my thoughts and define themselves slowly to me: first their faces, then their personalities and quirks and personal histories, then their relationships to other people, who very slowly appear … I try to put this all together, working very slowly, never hurrying the process. I can’t hurry it any more than I can prevent it.”

~ Quotation included in The Writer’s Desk, a wonderful 2006 calendar from Jill Krementz featuring photos of writers in their writing spaces, paired with quotations; I’ve never thrown this calendar away.


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