Procrastination or Research? Curtis Sittenfeld Clicks Over to Celebrity Gossip While Writing.

From a story on headlined “Procrastination or Research? Curtis Sittenfeld Clicks Over to Celebrity Gossip While Writing.”:

Following 2016’s Eligible, a Bachelor-inspired retelling of Pride and Prejudice, Curtis Sittenfeld again took inspiration from the churn of pop culture for her newest novel, Romantic Comedy. The novel follows Sally, a late-night sketch writer, who works in a world where very average-looking men date beautiful women, then falls for a pop star.

The famously prolific Sittenfeld doesn’t not procrastinate while writing, and gives a glimpse into her process in her responses to the Lit Hub Questionnaire.

Who do you most wish would read your book?

I recently admitted at an event that my great professional dream is for Barack Obama to include one of my books on his annual or semi-annual best-of roundup. Given that he’s a fantastic writer with excellent and wide-ranging taste in reading, how could this not be my dream? So, President Obama, have you ever noticed that sometimes talented but ordinary-looking male SNL writers date gorgeous, super-talented, super-famous female celebrities but that the phenomenon never seems to happen with ordinary female writers and gorgeous male celebrities? Have you wished for a novel about that?

How do you tackle writers block?

I’m not convinced that thinking of it as “writers block” is useful, though certainly I’m familiar with not being in the mood to write or feeling like my brain is fried. A few things I do to cajole myself are 1) clean up my desk the night before so my own messiness won’t terrify me in the morning, 2) decide ahead of time what scene I’ll tackle before I sit down to work, and 3) jump ahead to a different scene if the one I’m in is giving me unbearable trouble, which feels like a kind of faith that my work in progress still has a future.

Who is the person, or what is the place or practice that had the most significant impact on your writing education?
More than twenty years ago, when I was a graduate student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, my advisor was the warm and brilliant novelist and short story writer Ethan Canin. He’d lead discussions of student work by having us talk about a piece’s structure and nothing else, then character and nothing else, then language and nothing else. After all that, if we had any additional points to raise, we could, but people rarely did. Ethan’s way of breaking down the components of a story, especially by considering structure above all, made so much sense to me and gave me a feeling of control over my own work.

What part of your writing routine do you think would surprise your readers?

I sometimes procrastinate by glancing at the website of People magazine. While writing Romantic Comedy, which takes place at a late night comedy sketch show and features more than one celebrity couple, I sincerely would wonder when I looked at, But wait … am I procrastinating or am I doing research? (I found articles about celebs who post cryptic quotations on their social media before a breakup especially useful.)

How do you decide what to read next?

I especially listen to the recommendations of writer friends but also of people I don’t know on social media. I read reviews, both capsules and longer ones in The New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post, and the Star-Tribune. And I regularly make impulse purchases in bookstores. If I go to Magers & Quinn, my local indie in Minneapolis, intending to buy one specific one, I routinely walk out with four or five.

Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of Romantic Comedy.

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