What Creative Satisfaction Looks Like to Elissa Washuta
In Conversation with Courtney Balestier on the WMFA Podcast
Writing can be lonely work; WMFA counters that with conversation. It’s a show about creativity and craft, where writer and host Courtney Balestier talks shop with some of today’s best writers and examines the issues we face when we do creative work. The mission of WMFA is to explore why we writers do what we do, so that we can do it with more intention, and how we do what we do, so that we can do it better.
In this episode, Courtney Balestier talks to Elissa Washuta, author of White Magic, about the lines of inquiry that drive her book, the unreliability of memory, Twin Peaks, and so much more.
From the episode:
Courtney Balesiter: What does creative satisfaction look like for you?
Elissa Washuta: Oh, that’s a good question. I like feeling like my work is sort of overstuffed and maximalist. I like feeling like I’ve created a little cabinet of curiosities of all my things I’m interested in. Like I was talking about earlier, with that big vision that I start out with, I don’t think I’ll pull off—I really recognize when I have pulled it off, and I impress myself, you know? I always doubt myself a little bit at the beginning, with my terrible memory and my scattered attention and my fatigue. I always think, I’ll never do this. This is never going to get finished. I’m going to run out of time, I’m going to run out of interest, and this all just fail. And when it doesn’t, that feels great.
This book, I think, was the first thing I’d ever created that really made me feel that even if it never got published, I will still be actually really satisfied with what I’ve done, and found a way to collect all of these things that are not just in one constellation of the things I care about, but all these different constellations to make this universe that was my world during the time I wrote it and during a lot of my life. I feel really, really satisfied with that.
But there’s also these phases of satisfaction. I’m really pleased that people are liking the book. It makes me super happy to know that it’s meaningful to other people. I got the hardcover copies over the weekend, and it is so satisfying to hold a hardcover book that I wrote! That’s new. And it’s shiny, has a gold spine. I love objects. And to have the book as an object—especially such a beautiful object—that’s really satisfying.
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Elissa Washuta is a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and a nonfiction writer. She is the author of White Magic, Starvation Mode, and My Body Is a Book of Rules, named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. With Theresa Warburton, she is co-editor of the anthology Shapes of Native Nonfiction: Collected Essays by Contemporary Writers. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at the Ohio State University.