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I grew up poor in crappy situations... various crappy situations. What kept me sane was reading and music. I had so many different literary tastes growing up, be it fiction like Stephen King or Piers Anthony or non-fiction like reading Hunter S. Thompson essays or reading the Beats. I was a huge fan of the Beat movement.
The essays are very solipsistic and self-absorbed, I'm totally conscious of that. To me, book writing is fun, and I basically just write about things that are entertaining to myself.
My cure for writer's block is to step away from the thing I'm stuck on, usually a novel, and write something totally different. Besides fiction, I write poetry, screenplays, essays and journalism. It's usually not the writing itself that I'm stuck on, but thing I'm trying to write. So I often have four or five things going at once.
I've always written. There's a journal which I kept from about 9 years old. The man who gave it to me lived across the street from the store and kept it when my grandmother's papers were destroyed. I'd written some essays. I loved poetry, still do. But I really, really loved it then.
My father was a great sympathizer of Ahad Ha'am. Every Friday night we would read Hebrew together, and often the reading was Ahad Ha'am's essays.