I wasn’t the kind of child who spent time telling stories. As an adult, I tell anecdotes, but I am wholly a writer with a pen in my hand. And I am even a reader with a pen in my hand. I almost feel as if I am not complete as a human being unless I have that pen in my hand. I really don’t feel happy reading unless I have the pen so that I can write out great hunks of quotations from books I like. I cannot resist doing it. It is as if the writing comes down and what I read flows back up the veins and becomes part of me. Lots of people don’t like it, but I even like the feel of writing. I like marking the signs that stand for words on a page. I like the look of it. I’m not a person who wants to crochet or peel a carrot. There’s other work I do, but I prefer it to be big muscle work. I want to sweep and scrub. But writing . . . just the muscular physical activity of writing, I love.
And how did it begin? First, I was mad about reading. Sometimes I think a writer should make up his mind whether he’s going to be a writer or a reader. There isn’t time for both. I’ve never quite made up my mind. Gertrude Schweitzer, a very good writer, made the statement that she only permitted herself to read thirty minutes a day. But as for me, I go to sleep reading and I wake up reading. Somehow I have the feeling that in some book is the great treasure I’ve been looking for all my life.
Jessamyn West, interviewed by Carolyn Doty in The Art of Fiction No. 67, The Paris Review No. 71, Fall 1977.