Emily Raboteau is an associate professor in the English Department, the author of the novel, The Professor's Daughter and a recent recipient of a prestigous $20,000 National Endowment of the Arts award. Other awards include a Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Chicago Tribune's Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction and a Pushcart Prize.
Emily's perspective on writing is "that at its best, it's play, at its worst, it's agony, and that most of the time it's a combination of the two. I find it hard to do. If I don't treat it like a job, by which I mean parking myself in the chair for a set number of hours a day, I don't finish anything, I just talk about finishing things. I don't really have any lofty statements about craft because I am still a beginner. Here is a lofty statement about craft which has helped me, by the inveterate Irish poet, Seamus Heaney:
'Creative work is like any other work; it involves moving a certain force through a certain distance. It involves the identification of an origin of energy, then the creation of conditions in which that energy can exercise itself freely in order to transform itself and the conditions into something new and not just something new but something actually renovated. Being a writer involves following the sixth sense and proceeding on the off-chance; it involves testing the ground by throwing shapes; and, in general, it means advancing by the unpredictable path of intuition rather than the earnest and direct path of logic.
I am talking about a psychic event in which impulse discovers direction, potential discovers structure and chance becomes intention. This is the movement I depend on in all my other doings and writings, the only process that I trust, the only process that gives actions and statements an unshakeable psychic foundation.'Emily likes what Heaney says about "throwing shapes," because "it reminds us that writing is painterly, and sculptural, and like being in nursery school. It takes courage to work in the fashion he describes because most of us adults are afraid of abandoning logic. This is the struggle for me as a writer – how to see like a child but structure my time like an adult. How to wander in the forest without getting absolutely lost."
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