Creative Writing

Things We Carry: Sidik Fofana

Things We Carry is a series of short interviews with current students, faculty, and alumni of the Creative Writing Program. These conversations are interested in the tactile elements of writing: what do we hold essential? What tools do we need in order to create? The things we find essential to our writing process reflect our beliefs about craft and process.

This week, we were happy to chat with Sidik Fofana, writer, public school teacher and faculty member at The New School.

Where & when are you writing these days? 

I write mostly in my basement on a futon. I am lying up with my laptop. I’m in just boxers and a t-shirt sometimes. I’m picking my nose. My basement is undone, dank. Linoleum coming off the floor from the old lady who lived there before us. Some of it is teal, some of it is like kitchen tile. The walls are straight up concrete, so you can’t hang anything up. Books all over the place. I tell myself that’s enough, but they just keep multiplying. I have a vague fear that something will catch fire and, because of the books, the flames will spread quickly. I always see interviews like this and the space is so warm and cozy. None of this ish could be photographed.

Do you have any tools or tokens that are essential to your writing?

Not really. If I’m revising I have a crumpled version of the recent draft with me, or there’s a lofi instrumental in the background. But other than that, nothing—love that this craft can be equipment-less sometimes.

Pen and paper, laptop and wifi, or a combination? 

Good old laptop and wifi. Although, I find myself scribbling non-fiction in small portable notebooks of sixty pages or less these days. I also have this cool bluetooth typewriter keyboard that I pack sometimes if I’m on the road and decide to just bring an iPad. I never write with it in public though because I get scared people will say look at that hipster with a typewriter.

Do you have any habits or rituals that help you get grounded before you start writing? 

Just setting a timer, so if all else fails, I can say I put in an hour. Lots of Youtube and Amazon. By the end of a typical session I’ve watched top high basketball plays and put like five things in a cart. I guess I would say I’m a fisher not a hunter. I’m chilling until an idea comes to me. 

You have been given a backpack and are being sent to a desert island for thirty days of uninterrupted writing time. What do you put in the backpack? 

Loads of novels and essays. This is for the downtime, I’ll say. Then I’ll end up procrastinating with them.

Last question: are there any words or quotes that you find essential to your writing practice?

Facing a blank screen is like stepping into a boxing ring with your hands tied behind your back and with no choice but to take the punches. 

Sidik Fofana is a graduate of NYU’s MFA program and a public school teacher in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in the Sewanee Review and Granta. He was also named a fellow at the Center for Fiction in 2018. Stories from the Tenants Downstairs, his debut short story collection composed of eight narratives about residents of a fictional building in Harlem, was published by Scribner in August 2022.

Things We Carry is an interview series curated by Stuart Pennebaker.

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