The Questionnaire: Ingrid Norton

How do you get up in the morning?

I’m woken when the rock doves I tie to my wrists at night try to fly away, usually around dawn (at least by noon). Then it’s time for coffee. 


Are you okay with blood?

“Trust your reader, stop spoon-feeding your reader… Eat meat. Drink blood.”  -Hilary Mantel


Is your study neat, or, like John Muir’s, is your desk and floor covered in “lateral, medial, and terminal moraines”?

Definitely the later: books, magazines, notebooks, and notes quickly engulf anywhere I spend time. My kitchen table was so stacked with spine-up essay collections and poetry books that I commandeered the cabinet by the sink for them. I like the reference to Muir-full of exuberance, routinely paring his life down to a knapsack and setting off. And then, when stopping to write, watching the notes pile up. Physical abode is important but ancillary. One’s work becomes the journey, both passage and harbor.  


Do you succumb to nostalgia? 

I’m young and have a pretty hale and optimistic temperament-so I’m just as preoccupied with words unwritten and voyages not yet embarked as with nostalgia. But in a larger sense, to write is to enter a hazy country where longing is joined to love and memory illumines the present. I’m thinking of the subtle alchemy that occurs when reverie, acute observation, and future intimations all crowd round: gusty late night walks; watching land recede as a plane ascends. The feeling is sometimes described as “melancholy” but I flinch from any connotation of gloom-my most contemplative moods are often my happiest. 


Best piece of advice you ever received?

That discipline is distinct from regimen. Some artists thrive on routine-the six hours of unblocked work before lunch, say-but others don’t. Creative discipline is about having the drive, seriousness, and tenacity to see a project through. And following a project’s rhythm can take years. Hearing that from an older writer helped me overcome guilt at not being more regular in my habits-the advice also held a mirror to the discipline I possess and was just beginning to guard and articulate.  

More prosaically: to keep a detailed journal. Indeed, to get impressions down as soon as possible. I started typing mine while I lived in Detroit and it’s invaluable. All’s grist. 


Title of the book you’re probably never going to write, but would kind of like to get around to?

MIAMI: A Philosophical Novel in Eight Volumes.