Writing spaces are as varied as the individuals who occupy them. The range of “space” we enter for our writing practice is a wide, wild field from tidy to random, from Maya Angelou in a sparse hotel room to Marcel Proust in bed, from Jane Austen at the kitchen table to you: what does your writing space look like? Join second year MFA in fiction John Kazanjian on a park bench to honor all the ways we love, feel, create, and blossom.
Where do you write?
I feel untethered in terms of creative spaces. I think that any place can become an arena for producing art. I’ve often felt most connected to my work on airplanes or park benches—and once at a gas station along Pacific Coast Highway, north of Los Angeles. However, I do keep a desk facing a window that overlooks the Queensboro Bridge. If I can’t be in transit, then it helps to look at perpetual motion.
Stand, sit or other?
My best ideas come from standing in the shower or walking outside. But I do sit to write.
What is your writing practice?
The most important part of my practice is a strong and varied engagement with the world. Getting out and being active is paramount. For me, writing means actively bridging the external and internal realms in meaningful ways, striving to create a single space for life and creativity. For producing new work, I find that I am most productive when I’m in an emotional state of mind. I tend to get there with music. I’ve got a playlist of my favorite sad songs and pieces. The trick is generating work before emotions become a touch too overwhelming. For revising, I think recreating the most likely setting in which the work will be read is important, removing music and other mood-altering elements.
What are your favorite procrastinations?
Since I consider pretty much any activity to be part of my writing practice, I don’t know that I’d call anything procrastination. But when I’m not putting words on a page, I’m usually composing and recording music, practicing an instrument, or listening to albums on vinyl. I’ll also stop whatever I’m doing at any moment if one of my cats wants to play. Paws before prose.
We live in interesting times, which book/author keeps you sane/grounded?
I wish a book, or an author could have this effect on me! I connect more with single works than I do with authors as personalities or mentors-in-absentia. But once I’ve experienced a book, I rarely go back. For me, there are too many literary instances to explore in a tragically insufficient amount of time. And I’m comfortable being ungrounded. Although, I do often think back on Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke when I am feeling particularly lost. There’s a special line that he writes to the struggling poet and sometimes it helps to pretend that he’s writing to me. “I would like to beg of you, dear friend, as well as I can, to have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.”
What is your new skill learned during the shutdowns of the Pandemic
I’ve learned to be gentle with myself. In essence, I think human beings are beautiful, and the harshness of this world will move us in unfavorable ways. But neither loss, nor struggle, nor existential dread should inspire us to side with that harshness. I’ve learned that honoring the ways we love, feel, and create will allow us to blossom, even in this philosophical winter.
What is your dream writing space?
Right now, I think I’d feel most inspired on a park bench somewhere, surrounded by sunshine and flowers. Maybe there could be a pond and a little bridge with a high arch. I’d like a place where I could take off my headphones and replace my music with the sound of rustling trees and the soft chatter of happy people.
John Kazanjian is a writer and book critic living in New York. His work has been published in Rain Taxi, The Brooklyn Rail, Entropy Magazine, PANK, The Rupture, JMWW, and elsewhere. Find him at: www.johnkazanjian.com