Interview: Jason Stoneking

This week, I got to do both an audio and written interview with Jason Stoneking. He had some incredible thoughts about the creative process and pressures around the publishing industry. Jason is a writer and performing artist. He has published 2 volumes of poetry and four collections of essays, and performed in various ways for more than 25 years. Currently, Jason is working on a conceptual writing project in which he writes entire individual books for people by hand. You can listen to our conversation or read the initial interview below.

What is your favorite creative medium?

Poetry / Epistolary / Journaling

What do you love about those media?

I’m attracted to ideas that don’t easily fit within the traditional structures of fiction or nonfiction. And I’m interested in the intimacy and authenticity of capturing thoughts at an early stage in their development and sharing them with the reader before they’re more formulated.

How do you begin your creative process? For instance, if you are a writer, how do you get into a writing session?

My favorite headspace to write from is the one just emerging from sleep. I like to wake up early and alone, and let my dreamstate linger in the morning silence, where it can influence my writing before I start taking in too much outside input and sliding back into my day-to-day conscious thoughts. If I have to start later in the day, I begin by just clearing some mental space. I turn off all devices, and maybe take a long shower, or a walk, or a nap, to let my mind wander into its own territory before I pick up the pen.

Where is your favorite place to create and why?

I can write almost anywhere, as long as I don’t have any direct distractions. But I suppose my favorite places are in transit. I love to write in airports, in bus stations, on trains. In those transient, non-spaces between defined realities.

What is your favorite music to create to and why?

I often write in total silence. But depending on what I’m writing, I can sometimes work with classical, jazz, or psychedelic rock. The most important thing is that it can’t have lyrics. I can’t write while I’m listening to someone else’s words.

What piece of literature (i.e. CNF, poetry, short story, novel, collection, etc.) set you on fire most recently and why?

I recently spent a few months reading everything I could find by Clarice Lispector. She had the most invigorating way of diving into any depth, or exploding into any kind of conceptual space, without ever being constrained by preconceptions of genre or by self-consciousness. Discovering her work has been extremely liberating for me.

What literature or art magazines get you excited and why?

There’s so much out there now that it can be a bit overwhelming. I mostly try to support local publications that feature people from my community, because I think that’s important. Paris Lit Up is one that consistently features a good blend of established and emerging writers and artists with connections to Paris.

Where is one place that every person who considers themselves a “creative type” needs to travel to and why?

Wherever is farthest away from their own comfort zone and the things that they’re used to taking for granted. Creativity isn’t helped by confirming the same ideas over and over. To see further, we need to have our assumptions rocked, and our perspectives widened as much as possible. This could mean traveling to the other side of the world, or just to the living room of someone on your street that you can’t imagine talking to.

What advice would you give to your younger self about the creative process?

To never hesitate out of fear, or worry about public reaction. To write everything I was curious about writing. To give less attention to the opinions of my peers, and more attention to my relationship with the eternal.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a project I call Bespoke Books, in which I write entire unique books, by hand, in a single draft, for individual recipients. Each person who commissions a book receives the only copy of a text written specifically for them, along with the rights to share it or keep it private, as they wish. It’s like a cross between a journal and a letter. A long, intimate text addressed to a specific person and written by hand. It’s a lot of work, but I’m inspired by the intimacy of the exchange, as well as the heightened stakes of creating a singular object.

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