Where I Write: With Jochebed Smith
Where I Write, a series of short interviews with current students, faculty, and alumni of the Creative Writing Program. It is a discussion of place in writing. What our writing spaces look like can be as varied as the physical spaces that exist (or don’t!) in New York and beyond, and as varied as the mental and psychic spaces we occupy while we write. Tuck into those morning pages and obsess over The Times Crossword with second year MFA in fiction Jochebed Smith.
Where do you write?
It’s horrible for my posture but I always write in bed with my dog very close by,
upon his own insistence.
Stand, sit or other?
I sit when I’m WRITING writing. When I’m drafting or outlining, I’m all over the
place: sprawled across the floor; walking through the city and dictating into my
voice memos app; standing and staring at the visual research I’ve compiled on my
wall. But when it’s time to get down to business I’m sitting – that’s all hands on
What is your writing practice?
I do morning pages everyday, a practice from the oft-cited though perhaps
outdated “The Artist’s Way.” With morning pages, I’m either working out how I
feel about any given personal issue I might be dealing with (take your pick) or
some sticky situation I’m trying to figure out with one of my projects, whether
that’s a transition or a plot point or a character… Morning pages are the backbone
of my practice because it allows me to either return to my WORK work more
clear-headed, or even with a solution ready to go. If I don’t write at all for the rest
of the day, I just do morning pages, but doing morning pages almost always leads
to … more pages.
What are your favorite procrastinations?
I am incredibly addicted to The New York Times Crossword app. You can get the entire archive of the crossword with your subscription. I am obsessed. There’s a timer, too, and I’ll screen shot my particularly impressive solve-times just for like, my own self-esteem. However, if you finish a puzzle in a time slower than your average, a little snail appears next to your time and I can’t imagine anything more degrading.
We live in interesting times, which book/author keeps you sane/grounded?
I return to Sister Corita Kent’s Rules all of the time, even before the pandemic. I
find that I’ll get particularly attached to one rule or another during certain seasons
of my life. Right now, in the depths of despair around my thesis, I keep repeating
Number Nine to myself. “It’s lighter than you think.”
What is your new skill learned during the shutdowns of the Pandemic
If you talk to John Reed he will tell you that I am a CAKE MASTER. I’m talking
LAYERS, I’m talking FILLINGS, I’m talking DECOR. I recently made a
two-layer Earl Grey sponge with blackberry-lime buttercream that, if I may say
so, was a triumph. This one by the inimitable Dolester Miles is also a favorite.
What is your dream writing space?
Somewhere very quiet, for God’s sake. This city, I love it, but it’s too much
Jochebed Smith is a Filipino-American writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Marie Claire, 12th St: The Journal for Writing and Democracy, and more. She is based in Washington Heights where she lives with her dog, Kershaw.