Your poem “strange constellations” appeared in our WINTERCEARIG issue. Can you tell us how you feel like you’ve grown as a writer since having it published?
I think one of the most important ways I’ve grown as a writer since then has been to learn more about what works for me. I’ve gotten more comfortable about going against the school of thought that dominates a lot of writing culture that says writers must be strict taskmasters with themselves and write X days a week for X many hours to produce X amount of words. Now, I’m learning to be gentle with myself and prioritize my own well being over a writing goal. Over the years I’ve learned that the story or poem doesn’t need to be battered into existence; it will always get there eventually.
What advice would you as a writer now, give you as a writer then?
To be brave! Write from your gut, send it out, and keep moving.
There is something freeing about accepting that you are going to publicly grow as a writer and letting everyone see the wobbly uncertainty of that process. For me, that makes writing a continual exercise in bravery.
What time of day do you do most of your writing? Describe your writing rituals and your creative space.
I usually do my writing from mid-morning on into the afternoon. I like to keep to the same schedule most days of the week; it isn’t thrilling but that’s exactly why it makes me happy. And I don’t have any writing rituals. I just shoo whichever cat is currently in the chair – usually Twilah – out of the way (or, more realistically, plead with her to scoot over so I can perch on the chair’s edge) and I start.
I’m very fond of my writing desk, which I luckily found second-hand a few years ago. It’s tucked into a corner of an upstairs room that also holds an ancient treadmill, a bunch of potted plants, and several cat beds – and things my cats think are their beds. The desk sits at a window overlooking a small park filled with bougainvillea, jasmine, and banyan trees. Next to the desk are bookshelves and on top of the desk you’ll find stacks of whichever books are most relevant to my current project. I also have an old Bedouin kohl pot, a picture of my beloved dog Polly, and drawers full of half-filled notebooks and pens. There are also prints by one of my favorite artists, Rima Staines, and a Cylon figure sharing shelf space with Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf dolls. Around the desk, I’ve stuck Post-It notes to the walls on which I’ve jotted down quotes and notes to myself. One of my favorites is: “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story,” by Terry Pratchett. Isn’t that such a heartening thing to remember?
Are there repetitive themes within your writing? Where do you draw inspiration for these themes, and how do you find yourself drawn to them?
When you begin a regular writing practice, the well-worn paths of your mind very quickly become apparent and I’ll be the first to admit that mine are practically trenches at this point. As a transcultural writer, I’m continually exploring notions of belonging, home, and identity. Much of my work is psychogeographic, based on various facets of my homes – Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. I’m also frequently orbiting issues of mental illness, neurodivergence, trauma, and feminism. Like many writers, I write about the components of my life and the ways they interact with each other. When I write, it often feels like alchemy, to see how these topics will combine in new ways and create something entirely fresh.
Our goal is to publish absurdly unclassifiable literature. Do you have a favourite piece of writing that goes against the grain?
I’m currently reading Arianna Dagnino’s Transcultural Writers and Novels in the Age of Global Mobility and it very much goes against the grain – to the point that I’m not even entirely sure how to classify it. It’s partly memoir, partly academic literary analysis, partly real interviews merged with fictional meetings in actual settings, all of it entirely captivating.
What pieces and/or projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently finishing up my second master’s degree, this one in creative writing, so I’ve got to get my dissertation –a short story collection – polished and ready to go. I’m hoping to start a PhD in creative writing later this year so I’m laying the groundwork for that project, as well. And there is a speculative fiction novel that I’ve been wrestling with for the past year that just when I think I’ve got it nailed down, it scrambles out from beneath me and transforms into something else entirely. I’m also at the very beginning stages of another psychogeographic essay, this one about Bahrain’s Manama souq and its long, fascinating history.
Natasha Burge is a Pushcart Prize and Sundress Best of the Net nominated writer from the Arabian Gulf region, where she is the writer-in-residence at the Qal’at al-Bahrain Museum. Her writing has appeared in The Smart Set, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and The Establishment, among others. More can be found at www.natashaburge.com.