Bustle Book Club

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Doesn’t Suffer For Her Art

“Writing is the love of my life.”

"We Should All Be Feminists", a guided journal by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been reflecting on the nature of inspiration as of late. The author is releasing a companion piece to her 2014 book We Should All Be Feminists — a guided journal bearing the same name — that offers readers prompts to jumpstart their writing. But Adichie has found a simpler way to motivate herself. “I'm not even joking when I say that chocolate is a fundamental part of [my] process of creativity,” Adichie tells Bustle from Lagos, Nigeria, where she’s just had a bite of a brownie.

Sweet treats are just one part of Adichie’s surprisingly pleasurable writer’s routine. Despite the often somber, serious content of her work — last year she published Notes on Grief, a tome about losing her father — Adichie approaches her craft with a sense of levity. “Writing is the love of my life. It’s the thing that makes me happiest when it is going well — apart from the people I love,” she says. “Fiction gives me a transcendent joy [where] I feel as though I am suspended in my fictional walls.”

She hopes those who use her journal will find a similar joy. For the full Adichie effect, be sure to pair the pages with a piece of chocolate — specifically, the writer’s favorite kind: “That perfect in between — not too milky, not too dark. With a bit of hazelnuts.”

Below, Adichie reflects on her favorite poets, her online shopping habit, and the merits of cream liqueur.

On the novel that continues to inspire her:

I read The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman a long time ago and it’s a really lovely, complex story about Poland in 1943. [It’s set] during the war and it’s about this woman who's Jewish, but doesn't look sort of “stereotypically Jewish.” She's blonde and has blue eyes and it’s about what happens to her.

On discovering new poetry:

I read a lot of poets. W. H. Auden, Linda Gregg, Galway Kinnell, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, John Berryman. Then there's this fantastic app that I have on my phone, which is the Poetry Foundation app. It's just really wonderful because it offers the possibility of randomly finding a new poet.

On her YouTube habit:

Sometimes you know you should be writing, but you're doing everything but writing. [In those moments] I’ll put things in my Sephora cart, read random news about feminist collectives in South Korea. I also have a bit of a fascination with the Holocaust. So I'm always looking at things [about it] on YouTube. Especially when I'm having a dark day or feeling depressed, I'm on YouTube and I'm watching things about the Holocaust.

On her secret weapon for writer’s block:

Here in Lagos, my desk was made by this furniture maker who's young. It’s white with two pullout drawers on either side. On the table itself, I have my laptop and a couple of books. I also happen to have a bottle of a cream liqueur, called Wild Africa Cream. When I'm writing, I don't want any alcohol in my body at all. But when it's not going well, then I'm like, "All right. Maybe we just need to take a swig."