My early drafts are staggeringly bad. I’m not being falsely modest here, it’s just the way I work, and I’ve had to accept this about myself. The drafts are palimpsests that get deeper and bigger and broader each time I return to them, as the layers accrete. Some of the layers stay and some of them go in the end, but the first drafts are awful, unbelievable. I don’t know how to explain it, except that they have no movement, they don’t go anywhere, there’s no dialogue, nothing happens, they’re shallow, they’re trite. It’s all some kind of strange, wafty cerebration, and I don’t understand where I’m going.
In a 2002 interview with Robert Birnbaum, Barrett discussed her writing, depression, and the books she returns to when depressed:
There are writers that I go back to very often, and there is a certain set of books that I go back to very often. I actually keep them on a separate shelf. It’s a quite shelf of books…it’s the emergency repair shelf, therapy shelf or fix-it shelf. It’s where I go when I am subject â€” like a lot of writers are â€” to fairly bad depressions. They come and go at different times and they are very debilitating when they come and one of the things that goes when I am in one is â€” first of all I can’t write and second of all I can’t remember why a person would want to write.