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Something Out of Nothing: Jhumpa Lahiri on the Creative Process

Jhumpa Lahiri Creative Process

“All writing, all art is just a wild leap off a cliff because there’s nothing to support you. You’re creating something out of nothing, really.  No one’s telling you to do it.  It comes from within, and it’s a very mysterious process, at least for me.  I still don’t understand how I write a story or a book.  I don’t understand how it happens.  I mean, I know it takes time, I know it takes effort, I know it takes lots and lots of drafts and hours, but I still really don’t understand the internal mechanism of how it really happens.”

Jhumpa Lahiri is a Pulitzer Prize-winning short story writer and novelist. Her work first appeared in The New Yorker in 1998. In the following short film produced by the iconic literary magazine, Lahiri discusses her creative process and the gratification she felt when readers around the world first responded so positively to her work.

Writing is not a fast process for Lahiri. One reviewer described her stories as bearing ‘the stamp of the same painstaking craftsmanship as Buddhist sages apply to the making of a mandala’. She conceived of the idea for her most recent novel, The Lowland, many years before any of her other books were published. In this video Lahiri reflects on her extensive drafting process and the important lesson she learned from Boston University Creative Writing Professor Leslie Epstein.

The Lowland was a National Book Award Finalist and was shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize. Jhumpa Lahiri currently lives in Rome and is experimenting with writing in Italian.



  1. F. Armstrong Green
    17 June 2014 / 1:26 am

    Notice that she starts out with pen and paper–the sign of a writer in touch with the word. Note, too, her marginalia on typed drafts–another mark of a craftsman ever working to perfect the word. Her willingness to cast off that which does not work and start another draft shows little care for time and great concern for getting the story and the writing right.

  2. Simran Silva
    17 June 2014 / 3:17 am

    It is amazing the way you think you are the only one who feels a certain way, and then you hear someone share the same thoughts from their perspective. Wonderful connection. Love the reference to Little Women and Jo March. Although when I read it for the first time, I knew I wanted to be an author like Jo.

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