How did you become a writer?
When I was 28 years old I was unemployed and broke and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I’d been raised in a family of grammar sticklers and figured I could probably do all right as a proofreader, so I started calling around to local newspapers and magazines looking for work. Having no experience, though, the only offer I got was an unpaid internship at Austin’s alternative weekly newspaper, the Chronicle. As luck would have it, once a year the Chronicle would give its non-writing staff the chance to write previews of movies that were screening at the South by Southwest festival, and my first year I was assigned an unintelligible eight-hour avant-garde documentary that hadn’t been shown in a theater since the 1960s. I watched the entire thing that night and spent the next five days agonizing over a 200-word review that I wouldn’t get paid for, of a movie that no one was going to watch.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
My biggest influence, the one I don’t think I’ll ever shake, is Philip Roth. His ability to balance cynicism, moral seriousness, and a visceral sense of humor, combined with his capacity for creating a sense of rolling energy with words, has always been something I marvel at. There’s just so much life in his writing. I have other influences but they’re all fighting for the No. 2 spot in my heart.
When and where do you write?
Unlike other writers who have to begin and end their writing sessions at particular times and particular desks, I tend to take a pretty impromptu approach to working. When I’m in the middle of a project, ideas can appear at any time—while I’m watching a movie or riding the subway or sleeping—and when they do I always try to stop what I’m doing to write them down, knowing from hard experience that nothing will engender self-loathing quite like losing a great idea.
What are you working on now?
I loved everything about writing my first book, and more than anything I want to write a second one. Unfortunately that means having an idea, which I currently don’t. So right now I’m working on coming up with one—a scientific process that consists primarily of staring at walls.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
I don’t think I’ve ever suffered from true writer’s block, the kind that leaves you worried that you’ll never write another good sentence again. I’ve gone through rough patches, of course, agonizing my way through passages and paragraphs and even entire chapters only to toss them out in disgust. But I’ve never felt debilitated.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
I remember reading somewhere that Philip Roth taped to the wall above his typewriter a piece of paper with the words “Don’t Get Up” written on it. That seems like pretty good advice for a writer, though I don’t follow it myself. I get up all the time.
What’s your advice to new writers?
I don’t think there’s anything I could say that would help.
Josh Rosenblatt is the author of Why We Fight, published by Ecco. His work has appeared in VICE, The Austin Chronicle, and The Texas Observer, among other publications. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.