How I Write – David Byron Queen
When/how/where do you write?
Lately, I’ve been writing from this awesome desk my girlfriend found online. We live together in an apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with a tiny dog named Merlin, who usually sits at my feet as I write. He’s been with me through so many drafts of things I feel like he deserves a co-author credit. I write best in the morning, but since my hours at work can vary each day, I’ve tried to develop the practice of being able to write at any time, in any circumstances. Even if this means working to the sound of mid-day jackhammers on the nearby BQE, or wearing headphones as my girlfriend falls asleep on the couch watching Seinfeld on Hulu. Whatever I write each day I email to myself, so I can open it on my phone on the train to work the next day and get a few extra minutes with it. From there, I go between the email document and my phone’s Notes app, where I collect random notes, edits, ideas, to then implement into the draft the next time I’m home. Not the most efficient system, maybe. But it works for me.
Do you eat while you write? If so, what?
Coffee, coffee, more coffee. Usually from Variety, or Crema on Driggs Ave. Although lately I’ve been trying to make the switch to tea after lunch. I’m not a breakfast person, so I usually power through a morning’s write until 1 or 2 or later when the coffee jitters have tapered off a bit.
I’m superstitious when I go through productive streaks, so if things are going well writing-wise I tend to eat the same things every day. I’m sure I get this from playing baseball when I was growing up; I had a coach who would require us to eat at the same pancake place every morning during a winning streak. For a while I was renting a desk at the wonderful Center For Fiction in the city, and my go-to was a tomato and brie sandwich from Pret a Manger, or chicken or falafel over rice from Rafiqi’s at 47th and Madison. Though as I’ve been working exclusively from home this summer, it’s meant a lot of walks over to Vinnie’s Pizza near McGolrick Park. Their Mac Attack slice is a pretty divine way to destroy your health.
Do you play music while you write? If so, what?
I always write to music, though rarely music with lyrics. Usually something ambient, droney, or repetitive. Music really helps me get into the meditative state I need to sustain my imagination. Any of Brian Eno and Harold Budd’s collaborations are great, as well as this zither player named Laraaji, who was apparently discovered by Eno while he was walking through Washington Square Park one day. Some of it can sound a little too new age, yoga studio-y, but I love it. Lately a lot of wacky German 70s stuff, too. Bands like Cluster, Harmonia, or Popol Vuh, who did a bunch of soundtracks for Werner Herzog’s movies. I’ll also always go back to Aphex Twin’s ambient stuff, as well as the eclectic catalogue of this oddball electronic musician Oneohtrix Point Never. His newer albums can jump around a lot, but Replica, Rifts, and Returnal are all very conducive to getting the words to flow. I’m constantly on the lookout for music that fits with what Eno himself described best: “as ignorable as it is interesting.
What are you reading right now?
I have a habit of starting way too many books at once, but right now I’m in the middle of Thomas McGuane’s Ninety-Two In the Shade, as well as Dave Eggers’ new novel Heroes of the Frontier. I’ve also been savoring Rebecca Schiff’s recent story collection, The Bed Moved. Her sentence-by-sentence virtuosity is off the charts. Most great stories may have ten or fifteen truly great lines, but Schiff’s have like a hundred—if they’re even that long.