by Sarah Pringle
During Old Dominion University’s 34th Annual Literary Festival, in October 2011, I had the pleasure of greeting Indigo Moor upon his arrival to Norfolk, VA. He had been invited to the festival to read some of his poetry. Having previously read Through the Stonecutter’s Window in my poetry workshop earlier that fall, I was very excited to hear him read. Later that week, I was further honored with the opportunity to sit down and discuss writing with Moor. It was a quiet morning, the smell of coffee lingered in the air, and we had a waterfront view; it was the perfect setting for a discussion of craft and writing. When we sat down, the first thing I asked him was “Why do you write?” He instantly posed the question back at me, very interested in my answer, and so began our discussion on writing.
Indigo Moor does most of his writing between 5:30 and 7:00 in the morning, before he goes to work as an Engineer. However, when he is very deep into a project, he will try to spend additional time writing as time permits. He described his reason for writing as a calling, and then explained by saying “A lot of people are in love with the idea of writing but are not necessarily in love with writing. They don’t understand that there are many hours spent in a room while the world is going by and circling by you. It’s the ability to just be in one place and be locked into whatever world you are creating right then, and making that world your universe.” Moor acknowledged that some people might view this as solitary in a way, and that might be, but writing as a calling is encompassing; it “takes every fiber of your being not to just be there, but to be engaged so completely that it fulfills you.”
In response to that sentiment, I asked Moor what he liked to write about. He replied “Absolutely everything, anything that catches my fancy.” He then called himself “eclectic” and described how everything feels alive to him, and how upon seeing a twig on the ground he may burst into the voice of that twig. Moor also mentioned that he enjoys watching cartoons, documentaries, anime, and that he has often been known to quote some of these pieces, as well as famous philosophers, amongst other voices. So it seems Moor’s urge to write can be triggered by anything, and he admits that sometimes he does not even know what has caused it. He went on to indicate that much of his work does in a way deal with a reoccurring theme of “a desire to understand the human condition within family dynamics,” and more specifically, “the issues between brothers, and between families, and how to explain them.” He confessed that this theme was not intentional and that it has somehow manifested itself into much of his work.
So when I asked Moor about his writing style, I was not surprised to learn that he was not a fan of choosing one specific style. In fact, one of the things he said he is most proud of about Taproot in comparison to Through the Stonecutters Window, is that “they are not the same manuscript.” He also added, “I really enjoy it when people tell me they liked both books, but that it’s hard for them to see that the same person wrote both.” For Moor, this is the precise reaction he looks for; he is very determined to not be a writer who writes the same piece over and over again.
In addition to poetry, Moor writes in three other genres: fiction, stage, and screen. He discussed how he finds each genre challenging, and that in order to write in different genres, he had to put the same amount of work into learning each. He then shared that for him, poetry is the hardest genre to work in and because of this, is the genre he has to work at the hardest. “I think of it like depouillage . You’ve got this huge stew or whatever in the pot and you’re constantly skimming off and skimming off of it trying to get down to the essence of what it is.” This idea of compressing in poetry, as Moor explains, can often be very challenging for many writers.
I asked Moor if he had any particular fears when it comes to writing. At first he expressed uncertainty in having a specific fear and replied, “When I’m writing I feel more elated.” But he went on to say that in the beginning he has a fear of the actual starting. “Because [as a writer] you are stepping into a chasm and there’s nothing there, you’re trying to make your way through, and you’re walking along through this complete darkness.” He then explained that everything is a choice, and that especially in the beginning, it is important to make the right choices at every turn. “Getting [a] world to build is my fear, one word at a time.”
While Moor might sometimes fear his next word or choice, he explains that he does not experience what some call “writer’s block” and said he honestly doesn’t understand it; he expressed that he has so many things to write about, and so many projects piled up that he wants to get to, that running out of things to write is not an issue for him. He also indicated that he usually has multiple projects in the works at the same time. Accordingly, if he does get momentarily stuck or apprehensive about where to go next, he said it can only mean one thing in his writing. He admits, “I am not a fan of absolutism, but in this case, it absolutely means one thing: it means there is a character [or subject] that I am writing about, that I do not know enough about for him or her [or it] to write itself.” Moor fully believes that if characters and subjects are fully developed with backstory, that they will always write each step of the plot on their own.
It is for these reasons that Moor will often speak about how his characters and stories have the ability to surprise him. Sometimes, he will plan for a specific character or plot to go in a certain direction, but when he gets there, that direction no longer seems right and the situation might then play out in an opposite, or unrelated way to what he originally expected. This moment of surprise is normally very exciting for Moor; he feels that if his characters can surprise and excite him, they will also hopefully surprise and excite a reader. So the most part, he begins writing based on an idea of a story arc instead of a strict plan, and then lets the characters and situations create the rest of the story themselves.
As a final treat, at the end of our interview, Moor identified some advice for young and/or beginning writers. He said, “Be hungry; always be hungry! Recognize that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and that reinventing the wheel is a really bad idea anyway. Everyone knows the joke about why the chicken crossed the road, but the only reason you know it is because you have heard it before. Recognize that writers have told this joke over and over and over again. Read as much as you can, take in as much as you can, and sooner or later you will be making your own jokes. That’s the beauty of it, when it all coalesces into you and you realize, OK, now I can expand on this with my own voice and make something extraordinary. So be as hungry as you possibly can, read as much as you can, write as much as you can, and always be willing to stretch your own envelope.”
The opportunity and experience of meeting and speaking with Indigo Moor was very inspiring. He was a joy to have on campus, and is passionate about his work and its meanings. His obvious care and dedication can be heard in his writing.
Sarah Pringle is a first year MFA student at Old Dominion University, and a volunteer for Barely South Review. Originally from Canada, she has been living in the USA for 12 years. As an undergraduate, Sarah was a runner-up for the ODU Poetry Prize. Sarah enjoys traveling internationally as much as possible, and is working on incorporating her travels into her writing. Sarah’s goal for 2012 is to begin seeking publication for more of her own poetry.