Why is writing important to you and why do you think it's an important medium for the world? Writing is important to me because it is an extension of my voice and because it can reach people in places I'll never get to visit. Also, very few people would like to sit and listen to me talk for hours and hours on end, but they might be interested in reading - or listening to - chapters of my book at a sitting. Our stories are so important to share and any time a universal resonates with a reader, we've achieved the goal of storytelling, the goal of helping another human feel less alone.
What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer's block? On one of my very first writer’s retreats--a magical weekend in Majorca--one of the other writers gifted me with a single tile they'd found lying around nearby with the letter A embossed on it in white on a blue background. On the back, in black ink, they wrote: Writer's Unblocker. Instructions: Place next to paper, do not use orally. I keep it on my desk to remind me of that wonderful weekend and the importance of a community of writers who support me, even if from a distance. I imagine them encouraging me somewhere in the background and it helps me keep going. With these imaginary cheerleaders, I often think of scenes I need to write like postcards. I try to see the scene on the front in my mind and then imagine what the words would be both on the caption and on the note the sender would write, and that becomes the beginning of the story. I then add in as many sensory details as possible and stories begin to come together. Those tricks work for me. The tile also remains helpful, decades later.
What is your favorite time to write? When I am alone. So, that depends on who is in my home at any given point in my life, visiting or living with me or whatever. But I do best if I am alone. The time of day doesn't really matter although I am a night owl by nature.
What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received and would like to impart to other writers? I remember listening to an interview with Isabel Allende who said something to the effect of "Just write a book, even if you write a bad book, write a book," and that always stuck with me. I say a version of the same thing to my own students. Write something. Anything. You can fix something. You can't fix nothing. So write something. Then something more. Then once you have a bunch of something, start working on the editing. I'd also share that while the writing is, of course, key, editing is just as important. Perhaps more so. Learning to edit your own work is a fine - and necessary - art. It is painful at first, but once you become comfortable with it, your writing will improve dramatically and quickly. Less is often more. Make every word count.
What excites you most about being a writer in today's age? For me, the most exciting thing today isn't necessarily about being a writer, but more about being a reader because thanks to technology we have easier access to so many more writers from around the world. We are so lucky to be able to read these brilliant writers and finally catch up on the wealth of voices from the far reaches of the globe and learn from their styles and experiences so that we can all become better rounded as writers and as global citizens.
Martina Clark's My Unexpected Life: An International Memoir of Two Pandemics, HIV and COVID-19 is out now with Northampton House Press.