In “Some Superstitions are Forever” (Issue 5), following superstitions leads writer Margarita Gokun Silver to her final escape vehicle. In the following interview, Gokun Silver discusses creative blocks, the story behind her Proximity piece, and her happiest moments.
Margarita Gokun Silver (@MGokunSilver) is a writer and an artist living in Madrid, Spain. Margarita’s work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward, Vela Magazine, McShoutys, and Mash Stories, among others. She holds a completely-unrelated-to-writing master’s degree from Yale University. Margarita continues to look in the mirror when returning for forgotten items and has passed on the habit to her American-born husband and daughter. She still has that scarf even though she no longer wears it.
What inspired you to create this piece? I am working on a memoir at the moment and this piece is one of its building blocks.
How would you characterize your creative process as you worked on this piece? (ex: fast and furious, slow brew, fits and starts) As with most pieces that have to do with memories, this piece came in slowly.
Where do you create? Tell us about your workspace. I am at my best when I write in coffee shops—there are less distractions and the life that happens around me is inspiring. At home I share my writing space with my painting studio so, whenever I am blocked, I often leave my computer and pick up a paintbrush.
What do you do to help yourself get over a creative block? Picking up a paintbrush and painting for a while always helps. Going for a walk or a swim. Having a cup of tea. Or sometimes switching gears altogether—leaving a piece with which I am struggling and taking on another. If I give a piece some space for a week or two, I usually come back to it with renewed inspiration.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about this piece? There is an interesting story behind this piece. When I wrote and sent it in, I had no idea I could still wear the scarf I wrote about. I knew I had it, but I didn’t know what shape it was in. A day before the piece came out, I was looking for something in my closet and came across it. Not only did I realize it was in perfect shape, I also saw that it was now in fashion, here, where I live in Madrid, Spain. So the day the piece came out, I put it on – more than 26 years after the moment described in my story.
You say that this piece is a building block for your memoir. How so? This story will become one of the chapters (or essays, if my memoir takes an essay form) in the memoir I am currently writing about coming of age and growing up a Jewish woman in the USSR, convincing my family to leave, and then building a life in the United States.
We asked Margarita to dip into the “Proust Questionnaire” and select a few fun (less writing-related) questions to answer. This probing set of questions originated as a 19th-century parlor game popularized by contemporaries of Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that an individual’s answers reveal his or her true nature.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? I’d like to be a human again. Maybe I’ll get it right the next time.
When and where were you happiest? When I travel with my family. When I write. When I paint.
What is your greatest extravagance? Shoes.
Which talent would you most like to have? Singing and playing piano (impossible because I am completely tone deaf).
What is your motto? It’ll be okay in the end – and if it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
Can you go into more detail about a moment when you were happiest? I find it difficult to find just one happiest moment because I have had so many! The day I arrived to the United States, the day I got into Yale, the day my daughter was born, the day I published my first piece in the New York Times… etc, etc, etc. Totally impossible to choose just one.
This interview was curated by Erika Williams, Proximity‘s Interview Series Coordinator and a creative writing student at Ohio University.