Put words on a page. Force them to make sense. Revise everything, from text messages to novels, a gazillion times before letting anyone else see them. Try not to be consumed with self-doubt.
I have trouble plotting in too great of detail so bare bones usually does the trick for me. It also helps if I have deadlines. I work better with a ticking clock and, like a small child being told there are consequences for not doing what they are supposed to do, I tend to accomplish more if I think I will disappoint someone else or myself if I don’t make a deadline.
I have another full-time career and a child so I write when I can and try to accept that that’s the way it is.
2. What inspires you to write?
Fame and glory. No, just kidding. Writing makes the rest of my life manageable. It’s a creative outlet I need in order to handle daily stress. It’s an escape at times, but conversely, it forces me to be present, to focus on something meaningful to me. In short, I need it or my life will become unbalanced and I will be very sad.
3. Writing is considered a dream job by many, but what if you were granted the opportunity for a true, magical ‘dream job’. What would it be and why?
Kitten therapist. I don’t mean I give therapy to kittens, I mean I take a bunch of kittens, give them to a person who is mentally struggling and let them play with the kittens and they would be totally healed by two hours of magic kitten therapy. I would like this job because it would heal the world and there would be no war or violence ever again. Everyone would be happy and I’d get to train magic kittens.
I’m also open to puppy therapist if the position of kitten therapist has already been filled.
4. You are standing on a stage, addressing a high school auditorium of teenage creative writers. What advice would you impart to them about the craft and the career path of being a writer?
If you want to write, read. Read well-written books. This is the best way to learn what makes a good story. Then write. Do not assume the first thing you write will be golden. Writing is a craft. When you learn to knit, you don’t start off making intricate lace shawls, you make a garter-stitch scarf. The tension may be uneven, but you learn the basics, you accomplish something, and then you move on.
Everything you write is practice. If a violinist wants to be good, they keep practicing and pretty soon, they don’t screech anymore.
If you want a career as a writer, develop a thick skin, prepare for rejection, and have a contingency plan in place if you aren’t going to rely on someone else to financially support you. I’m not saying you can’t support yourself as a writer, I’m saying it’s tough and probably won’t happen over night. At this stage, my writing supplements my income, but my day job puts food on the table and pays my mortgage.
All this is to say that there is a fair amount of business that goes with a writing career. You need to have both the right and the left hemispheres of your brain engaged. There is a place for practicality and it’s a necessary counterweight to the romanticized notion of what it means to be a writer. We are not all typing out our thoughts as we gaze through the window of our castle while our trust fund keeps us in coffee and designer shoes. I’m not knocking this–I will take a castle view, thank you–but it’s not the reality for most of us.
5. You’re stranded in a snowed in cabin, well stocked up on food, but no internet. What is on your emergency book shelf?
The complete works of Margaret Atwood. Lathe of Heaven by Ursula le Guin. At the Wall of the Almighty by Farnoosh Moshiri. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. All of Haruki Murakami’s works, which admittedly I haven’t read yet but his stories are on my list so I want them on my emergency shelf! I am America (and So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert.
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