Liza Monroy

by Mira Ptacin

January 19, 2011

Crafting the Perfect Writing Routine

1. What is your writing routine?

Wake up, write, eat, write, sleep, repeat. Just kidding! It’s really difficult for me to have a routine of any sort, but I write as much as possible every day. I used to be able to write pages and pages in a sitting. When I was working on my first novel I wrote fifteen to twenty pages a day at times, and I no longer understand how I was able to do that! Maybe that’s what happens when you apply yourself when you have the energy of your early twenties. I had weird rules like I couldn’t go to the bathroom until I finished the chapter. It definitely resulted in crappy pages that were thrown away, but seeing pages pile up was what I needed at that point. Plus Facebook hadn’t been invented yet…this was around 2003, 2004. Still, I write every day, starting as early as possible, with a break in the afternoon, and resuming in the evening if there aren’t other plans. Subtract a couple of hours for procrastination, reading things online, brewing coffee, etc. I hope that one day I’ll be able to devise the perfect routine…winging it for now.

2. What is your definition of “truth” in terms of writing creative nonfiction?

Did it happen? If so, it’s true. “Emotional” truth and interpretations of events are the writer’s own truth and just as valid. I don’t have a problem with misremembered details here and there or dialogue, which is always an approximation of what was said, if we’re talking about memoir. That’s doing the best you can, whereas blatant invention for the sake of plot is best saved for fiction.

3. What is the biggest nemesis to your creative spirit?

That vortex we call the internet, and self-doubt. I like the book The War of Art for how to deal with such things.

4. What do you hope people take away from your writing?

That’s a tough question! My favorite compliment I ever got was from a reader who said he missed spending time with my characters after he finished reading Mexican High. So I hope people take away a love of the characters they just spent 2-300 pages with. I also hope to surprise and engage the reader, and draw them into worlds and lives they wouldn’t otherwise see and that stay with them after they finish reading.

5. What writers have inspired you the most, and why?

Joan Didion is one of my very favorite writers, I love all of her novels and essays; Hunter S. Thompson, because gonzo journalism made me want to be a writer, and Nick Flynn because his memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.

Liza is a widely published essayist and journalist, and the author of the novel Mexican High. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently at work on a memoir. Learn more about Liza at www.lizamonroy.com.