Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor, Liska Jacobs. Liska is teaching a section of Novel I (Reg# 375141) on Tuesday evenings (7pm-10pm PT) this Fall. She sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and her upcoming course.
What sparks your creativity?
Oh all sorts of things! Walks, museums, hikes, swimming. Anything active where I can give myself over to wandering and wondering. I really believe a good portion of writing is thinking about writing. That said, the most important thing is getting your butt in the chair. All the inspiration in the world isn’t going to get the manuscript written. Only toiling at the desk will do that.
What do you rely on for those times it’s difficult to find the time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to write?
An excellent question. Sometimes writing can feel like any other menial office job—boring, plodding, exhausting, meandering, pointless. I try to remind myself when I feel like this that writing doesn’t always have to be precious and sacred to still be important. I push through by setting small goals. I’ll tell myself, write for forty-five minutes. There’s 1,440 minutes in a day and I just have to write for 45 of them. I set a timer and don’t do anything else. No surfing the internet, no laundry, no family phone calls or texting with friends. After those forty-five minutes are up, I set the timer again. And I go on like that because sometimes you can’t do anything else. It’s just one foot in front of the other.
What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
Since I could never pick one, here are a few novels close to my heart that are within arm’s reach of my desk: Deborah Levy’s Things I Don’t Want To Know; Jean Rhys’ Good Morning Midnight; Marguerite Duras’ The Ravishing of Lol Stein; Toni Morison’s Jazz; Elena Ferrante’s Days of Abandonment; Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station; Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Of Love and Other Demons. As for movies: The Thin Man series. I watch them every year.
What’s your favorite quote about writing?
“Words. To make someone understand.” It’s a moment toward the end of Jean Rhys’ novel Quartet, when the narrator sits down to write a letter. I think of it often. So much so that when I worked at The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles I lobbied the owner to put it on a t-shirt, which he did! I still have mine (I sleep in it). To me, this quote gets at the very heart of why we write. Using language—words—to communicate, to create understanding. It speaks at our very deep need to connect and express ourselves.
What excites you most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
About a decade ago I was taking classes in the Writer’s Program myself. Just an eager, vulnerable and apprehensive student wondering whether I was making the right decision focusing on my craft. I’ve realized since just how radical an act that was. It takes guts to make room in your life for this thing that probably everyone else in your life considers a hobby. So what excites me most is encouraging writers to believe in themselves and their work.
What do you hope your students get from your course(s)?
Writing is essentially a solitary act, and it’s easy to feel that there’s some kind of wall you have to overcome to sit at the table with everyone else. Not so. The moment you decide to write, to me, you’re a writer. I want my students to feel they’re part of the writing community, to leave my course confident and empowered, gunning to take the next step in their writing career.
Thank you to Liska for taking time to share with us. Look for more instructor interviews coming soon!