Books·Magic 8 Q&A

What Caroline Adderson does when she's stuck in a creativity rut

The author of Bad Imaginings takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.
Bad Imaginings is a short story collection by Caroline Adderson. (Rafal Gerszak)

Caroline Adderson is an Alberta-born novelist and short story writer. The three-time CBC Literary Prize finalist's book Bad Imaginings is a collection of 10 short stories about characters who are forced to live with the choices they make. 

Below, Adderson takes the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A, answering eight randomly selected questions from eight writers.

1. Sharon Butala asks, "What is the main question that you wish somebody would ask you, although nobody ever has?"

Is the moment when you transform a mediocre sentence into a better, truer one the absolute best moment of your day?

2. Jeff Latosik asks, "Do you think it's possible to separate writing from a need for validation or to have an audience?" 

I think this is what a writer should ultimately strive for. The only thing left then is the process — the sentences, each draft moving slowly toward some vain hope of perfection — a total immersion in the work itself. 

3. Vincent Lam asks, "Do you ever choose to deviate from rules of standard grammar and language usage? If so, how do you decide whether to do it?"

All the time! It's a question of rhythm. The beat of each sentence moves the story forward as much as the plot does. That being said, I think it behooves every writer to know the rules of grammar because language is our medium. You have to break the rules of language knowledgeably.

4. Shyam Selvadurai asks, "What is the hardest thing about being a writer?"

Not losing faith between drafts. A story or a novel is created in layers. The base layers, the early drafts, are often where you are figuring out what you're actually writing about. They can be painful to read. Humiliating. It's hard to move forward when you feel you've already failed.

5. Kate Pullinger asks, "Do you plan what you write before you start writing it?"

Vaguely. I usually have a beginning and some fuzzy point I'm writing toward, but if at the end of the process the original beginning and ending were the same, I'd know the work was no good.

6. Shilpi Somaya Gowda asks, "Do you ever get stuck creatively? If so, what do you do to get your creative juices flowing again?

I can get creatively stuck on a particular text, but rarely in general because it's my practice to cycle through a number of different projects. I work in three genres — novels, short stories and kidlit. When I get to the end of a draft, or stuck in the middle of one, I put it away and work on something else. When I return to the troublesome manuscript, the time spent away from it and my resulting detachment has usually allowed me to see what the problem is. Also, long walks help.

7. Lawrence Hill asks, "If you could start your life all over again and writing were not an option, what work would you most love to do?" 

A letter carrier would be a perfect substitute for the writing life: walking to stir me creatively, lives glimpsed through the mail slot to pique my imagination, endless approbation for dispensing dog treats. 

8. Jalal Barzanji asks, "Why do you write?"

I feel miserable when I don't. 

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