Countdown to Muse 2019: Impossible Writing by Maya Lang

The Muse and the Marketplace 2019 kicks off on April 5th at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston. This year’s theme is writing in a time of upheaval — whether such upheaval is personal, political, artistic, or all of the above. In anticipation of the conference, we’ve asked Muse 2019 presenting authors to describe a time when it was impossible for them to write, but they wrote anyway. How did they do it? What did they write? Our next presenter in the series is Maya Lang author of The Sixteenth of June.



Twice in my life, writing proved impossible but necessary: first, after the birth of my daughter, as an overwhelmed new mother, and second, while caring for my mother (who has dementia) after she moved in with me. I wrote in snippets, for an hour or two (if that), during fits of insomnia and exhaustion. Writing became an escape, a way of maintaining my sanity. Time stopped. Whatever had been preoccupying me disappeared.

Such writing—under duress—can be the best writing because no one has forced it. It simply shows up. "I don't care that you have no time for me," it says. "Here I am." The urgency is built-in.

That first project, written while caring for a newborn, became my first novel. My toddler joined me on my book tour. The second project is a memoir, forthcoming from Random House in 2020. I’m certain that the circumstances behind each book were not incidental, but crucial. The words were my lifeline—and if they could help me, it made sense that they could help someone else.




You can catch Maya’s craft discussion, “Rewind, Fast Forward, Pause, Play: Negotiating Time in Fiction” on Friday, April 5th at 3:45pm at the Muse. For all the latest Muse news, follow #Muse19.


Maya Lang is the author of The Sixteenth of June (Scribner), long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and featured in The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, In Style, The Millions, and The Rumpus. She won the 2017 Neil Shepard Prize in Fiction. Her work has appeared in VQR, Five Chapters, and Publishers Weekly, among others. Her memoir, The Woman in the River, is forthcoming from Random House in late 2019. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she has a PhD in Comparative Literature and lives in New York.

About the Author

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