Elvia Wilk

How did you become a writer?

I started out as an artist. Over time, I realized I was spending all my time in the studio writing rather than making things. At first it was poems and fragments, and then I started writing pieces about art, and eventually reviews and essays. Suddenly one day I realized I didn't need a studio anymore. Every problem (formal, emotional, intellectual) that I've tried to solve since then has been one I've found I can tackle within the confines of the page. I'll keep writing until that changes. 

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

Many of my influences are artists. For the last few years: Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Barbara Hammer, Ana Mendieta, Suzanne Lacy. I have too many writerly influences to name! Those who I thought of while writing my recent novel the most include Kurt Vonnegut, Tom McCarthy, Jonathan Lethem, and Jeff VanderMeer. I always think about Doris Lessing. Lately I've been reading and learning from Ingeborg Bachmann. 

When and where do you write? 

I write at home, in my living room, at a desk. I have a nice chair and big monitor to force myself to sit up straight. I write whenever there's time, which is usually in the afternoon—after I get some other work done and feel I can concentrate. 

What are you working on now? 

I'm turning several talks I've given over the past few years into essays. They're about topics like weird fiction, black holes, vampires, and role-play. I'd like to compile them into an essay collection.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

Every day! I just make myself write some words, however bad they are, and eventually I forget I'm blocked. If that doesn't work, I take a walk. 

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Butt in chair, for as long as it takes. If that doesn't work, take a walk. 

What’s your advice to new writers?

You'll probably have to write a lot of bad stuff in order to get anywhere good. So quantity over quality at the start, at least in order to develop a regular practice and get used to flexing your muscles. If you can, try writing lots of short pieces for publications (anywhere will do) so you get used to deadlines and the editorial process. A lot of the real writing work is editing work. Drafts are called drafts for a reason! And of course—read as much as possible.

Elvia Wilk is a writer and editor living in New York. Her first novel, Oval, was published in June 2019 by Soft Skull.