James Richardson

James Richardson Q&A the pleasure of writing (text)

James Richardson on what he finds to be the most pleasurable aspect of writing:
Sometimes the things I’m writing out of (grief, shame) are unpleasant, but it seems to me that writing itself is almost always a pleasure. Or rather that when it isn’t, when I’m bored, I quit. That’s necessary—seems to me any hint of slog, forcing, willpower or “I’m being productive!” ruins a poem. That means it might take many, many, many glancing encounters, spaced over years, to get a poem. This probably isn’t as undisciplined as it sounds, since I do have strategies for re-interesting myself—mostly switching poems, but also switching the background music, dipping into a book, taking a walk or doing a brief burst of cleaning—and I don’t let myself off easy. May I self-quote?
“It is with poetry as with love: forcing yourself is useless, you have to want to. Yet how tiresome and ungenerous is the one sprawled among flowers waiting for his impulse. There’s such a thing as knowing how to make yourself want to.”
Of course there comes a time very, very late in the life-cycle of a poem, when it has almost completely condensed from its cloud, that you have to comb through it obsessively and with fierce attention to get every nano-feature as right as you can. This is work. I wouldn’t exactly say it’s painful, and there’s a certain satisfaction in finishing, but it seems to me the least poetic part of poetry, which is essentially about “being in it” rather than “getting it done.”