I don't know from Jane Smiley's work, but I dig her advice to writers over at Fictionaut:

Any favorite writing exercises?

Eavesdrop and write it down from memory–gives you a stronger sense of how people talk and what their concerns are. I love to eavesdrop! Gossip. The more you talk about why people do things, the more ideas you have about how the world works. Write everyday, just to keep in the habit, and remember that whatever you have written is neither as good nor as bad as you think it is. Just keep going, and tell yourself that you will fix it later. Take naps. Often new ideas come together when you are half asleep, but you have to train yourself to remember them.

Write everyday. Listen. Show up. Work.