"I give assignments to my writing classes because it’s hard to make something up out of a clear blue sky…It doesn’t have to be anything. It can contain a character who shows up out of breath. It can contain a lake and a bunch of swans. There can be conversation or silence. It can take place entirely in the dark. I have learned we do better when we’re not trying too hard–there is nothing more deadening to creativity than the grim determination to write."