Tatiana Faria é mestra pelo departamento de Letras Modernas da USP e atualmente vive em Londres.
How do you start your day? Do you have any morning routine?
I grew up in a house that was always full of the smell of coffee; but I only started drinking coffee when I was 16. My mum has always said that coffee gives you the strength to bear tough days and no-one younger than 16 should have a day like that. Since my twenties I have always begun my days by making a coffee without sugar. This has been my routine: remembering my past and trying to feel confident and ready for my present.
After my mug of coffee, I write for one hour a sort of diary in English. I try to put myself into an English frame of mind, convincing me that English is the language where I am now, and I must be able to live here.
I don’t write properly during this hour; it is much more to explore a language as an attempt to create a narrative of myself. It’s to build a new character which I can adopt.
After that, I am ready to look for something to do where I can find some new experiences through the discovery of vocabulary, grammatical structures and new sounds.
What time in your day do you feel that you work better? Do you have any ritual preparation to write?
I work better during the mornings and evenings, and as the mornings pass faster I try to get up early, which is difficult because I usually sleep late. In the afternoon, I like to read fiction or to do something which allows me to escape my own working rational mind. This is important because I tend to feel sleepy and it helps me to engage with a book.
I have to fight with my own body to keep myself awake and only good books win the battle. It is great when I can have an experience that my body reacts to before my reason, and my instincts then become part of my literary experience. It’s good practice anyway, because as a researcher or a writer you must constantly fight with your primitive necessities when you are producing something: to go to the toilet, to eat, to sleep and to feel pain.
Most of the moments you struggle with the myth that there is a best moment to write or to read. In the professional writer’s life, we must produce when tired, hungry and hurt. And we should be glad about that, because to work in these conditions is the difference between a professional and an amateur.
If I am writing an article, a chapter of a book or a dissertation, I know that I will read my own text more than I write. This is because I start at the beginning of the text and I read my draft and all of my notes before I start to write again. Often, I will change the beginning of the texts when I am re-reading and most of the time I decide the end and the beginning at the same time, as both are a sort of frame from my texts.
Do you write a little bit every day or in concentrated periods? Do you have a goal to write daily?
I suffered during my Masters, learning the hard way that writing is a habit. If you write every day it is easier to complete long texts or articles, and to work under pressure. As I said, I write every day for one or two hours, or more, just to maintain the resilience of my spirit and body. But I like to write under pressure; I am usually more creative and concentrated when I have a short deadline.
My daily goal when I am working on an article or text is to be exhausted after a day of work. In general, I just finish working when it would be impossible to add or delete even one word more. Often, I work at this pitch of concentration when I have a deadline and the duty I feel brings the work to completion. To me, writing is to cross a line of life. It is to live over the limit.
How’s your writing process? Once you have compiled enough notes, is it hard to start? How do you move from the research to the writing?
As I mentioned, I do not worry about how to start because I will change it thousands of times. For me, the first version of the beginning of the text just means to break the image of the white paper front of me. Sometimes, if I am completely blocked I tell myself what I would like to write in a kind of monologue while I take notes of what I am saying. It helps me to organise the text and thoughts. The next step is to transpose the notes from the paper to the computer. It works well when I am blocked from writing in Portuguese and it feels as if I am playing with the rhetorical options.
If I am not writing in my mother tongue, I use other methods, for example I might write in my own language then translate into Spanish. As it is a self-translation I feel free to rebuild the grammar and to change the vocabulary, and then I notice I am into the text writing freely in Spanish.
In English, the process is different because I am not fluent in English as in Portuguese or Spanish. Also, I build simple forms where I can control the meaning and the structure better. I add the proper structure of the English, which takes priority over the content, although I often find myself being ironic and metaphorical.
How do you work with writer’s block such as procrastination, the fear of not satisfying, or not meeting expectations, and the anxiety of working on long projects?
Writers’ block finishes when I write the first line. Procrastination finishes when I have a writing routine and engagement with the text. Dissatisfaction finishes when I stop comparing myself with others. And when I get it, the anxiety disappears. If I am not anxious any more it doesn’t matter if I am in a long or a short project, because I realise that to write is my job and I feel glad to have a job which can give me such great satisfaction in the process and not just in achieving the end-goal.
Not one of these obstacles to writing is challenging to me. My biggest challenge is to control my self-destruction – I sabotage my self and my work. The dissatisfaction that I feel living in an unequal, individualistic and unintelligent world, where my research, thought and work is insignificant paralyses me at times.
Sometimes, the conscience of the world where I live encourages me in my work; it makes me conscious that I have the duty to produce something, which is not easy. It is a demanding combination of the selfless and the selfish.
How many times do you review your texts before you feel that they are ready? Do you show your works to other people before you publish them?
My own writing process is much more about reading than writing, which gives the process of review greater meaning. I am not a prolific writer who writes pages and pages per day. I only sit to write when I am sure about what I must write, but my sense of writing has changed quite significantly. Nowadays, I value direct, simple and clear writing rather than a poetic text; the former is much harder to refuted.
It means that at my stage a text not is never completely ready, because I could always make it better. I agree with the writers who constantly or repeatedly review their books, putting pressure on the language, improving structure, extensive editing. Possibly, my interest in studies of translation and the publishing market comes from my belief that no composition is ever completely finished.
I show my texts to two or three friends whom I trust and often help me with my thoughts. Sometimes, if I am uncertain with something I tape me reading the text and listen to it in away from my workplace. If it makes sense to me, and I can bear listening to my own voice, I send the text.
How is your relationship with technology? Do you write your first draft by hand or on a computer?
I take notes when I am researching, reading or just walking and thinking. Usually, I make a brief before I write. But the harder work is on the computer and often I use some editing tools that Word offers – highlights in different colours, ‘comments’ and ‘review’.
Where do your ideas come from? Is there a set of behaviours that you have to keep yourself creative?
Creativity comes with the sensibility to live a life in which we constantly refine and hone our perception. That is one of the reasons that as a writer or an academic we work constantly, because the life is the foundation of the writing. I remember many times when I have had good ideas, or I have understood some theoretical concept while I was taking a shower, making some food or just walking.
Some might describe this moment as inspiration, but to me it is just the result of the life devoted to the work of a writer and an academic. These moments don’t matter if when they come I don’t sit down to write and to work.
To me, it is essential to read as much as possible all types of texts and to keep myself knowledgeable. To participate in research groups, and to speak with colleagues in the same area, is essential as well. Not just because the conversation is an important instrument of communication, but because it takes me out of the long isolating process of writing.
What do you think has changed in your writing process over the years? What would you say to yourself if you could go back to when you were writing your first texts?
I would say “Enjoy the moment because everything will change”. When I was younger I enjoyed writing more than I do now. I didn’t feel the weight of the theoretical establishment, and to write an essay was a free space in which to think through words. During the years, the writing became much more complex, and although I have never felt the euphoria of the first texts I find a deeper pleasure now.
In the past, to write was to build a world through words, there was a ludic dynamic in that creation which I have lost. To write is an inevitable condition for me. I can’t escape that. There are aspects of the process of writing which are agonisingly painful, but it is only in doing that, that I can feel a sort of peace and calm in my mind.
What other projects would you like to dot? What book would you like to read which doesn’t exist yet?
The project which I would like to do will be my next step: a PHD about the reception of Latin American literature in the United Kingdom. I would study the relationship between the publishing market and literary and academic reception.
And it is this book that I would like to read and the many books that I find on my way.