If you had one piece of advice you’d pass on to other authors, what would it be?
Try to never stop writing. Keep getting to the desk. Get into a rhythm of regular, if possible, day writing. Some kind of discipline above all. Because when you stop it can be very hard to return. And it gets harder. “Back” doesn’t only relate to finding your footing again in life, it’s a metaphor for returning to yourself as a writer. I’ve written that poem too many times.-Harry Newman(20th Anniversary Issue)
For the most part, I still consider myself on the learning end of writing, so any advice I have is surely advice that was given to me by someone much wiser and more experienced than I am. That being said, though, if there’s one thing that’s helped me immensely in my writing it’s getting into a daily habit, and having people around me that know my work and my style to offer constant critical feedback. Even if it’s small, setting a goal of writing a set number of words a day really does help the flow of ideas. I’m also a firm believer in the idea that you can’t really write a great story until you’ve written the bad version of it, so writing every day is another way of getting the bad out of your system so the good can start to poke through. And with regards to having people around, there’s really nothing that’s helped me learn and grow as a writer more than helpful, critical peer reviewers. Even if it’s over email, having another set of eyes to read your work and critically assess it for what it’s trying to do is essential to improving.-Tyler Wilborn(20th Anniversary Issue)
“Your words are worth it.”It’s too easy to say, “I’ll write when…” There is always something else you should or could be doing, but your words are important. If you intend to be a writer, then be a writer. As Theo Pauline Nestor writes in Writing Is My Drink, “What does it look like to give permission to ourselves [to write]?…It’s knowing that all the other stuff you need to do will get done. Or it won’t.” No one else is going to prioritize your work (and writing is work). You have to honor your words and give them the time they need. And you have to remind yourself to honor them every day.-Heather Charton(20th Anniversary Issue)
How do you deal with writer’s block? Do you have any unique rituals you do to keep writing and meet deadlines?
Though I am hesitant to use the word ‘writer’s block’ (especially in the world of creative nonfiction and poetry, where memory and experience are never-ending writing material; Example: any moment from your childhood) I truly believe that reading is the best cure for a creative stall. Read anything; read everything. And most importantly, read for enjoyment. You can’t read a book intending to find a cure for your block. It will ruin the book and you won’t find what you’re looking for. You’re writing will most likely be tainted. Instead, read and allow your mind to rest, to learn from and enjoy the way words dance on the page. In my experience, your next idea will just come to you, as long as you allow it.-Darius Atefat-Peckham(20th Anniversary Issue)
How do I deal with writer’s block? Badly, of course. It’s terrible and the doubt and frustration from it only make it worse. But I don’t exactly have trouble writing, the times I’ve stopped. It’s more that I have trouble feeling. Feeling deeply enough to reach the level I need or want creatively. Either from being pulled in too many different directions and it’s hard to maintain focus or because I get overwhelmed by personal or professional circumstances. The kind of writing I do is very emotional and I need to have an open channel to those emotions and be able to sustain them to have a chance to do it well.-Harry Newman(20th Anniversary Issue)
There are two things that thwart writer’s block. In my seminars at Lesley University, William Lychack was fond of reminding us that the only way to write is to keep your butt in the chair. If you don’t sit down to write, you’ll never write. That’s solution number one.Solution number two is to figure out what motivates you. I’m a people-pleaser, so I love deadlines. They are one of the top ten things I miss about grad school. Knowing someone else is expecting my words is inherently incentivizing. Now, the only person expecting my words is myself—that requires an inordinate amount of self-discipline. When the writing isn’t going well, it’s easy to stumble into writer’s block. I combat this by keeping my butt in the chair and by finding someone else to expect my words. I employ my friends and family members to pester me about my work. Because I don’t want to disappoint them, I plow right on through writer’s block.-Heather Charton(20th Anniversary Issue)
Writer’s block often hits me when I am least interested in a piece I’m working on. Usually, this happens at the mid-point in a story (after the initial excitement of an idea has worn off) or at the very end (when I need a viable and compelling conclusion to the story). When writer’s block hits I make a concerted effort just to get words on the page. There’s a moment when I stop caring about quality (and maybe even content) and I just try to write whatever I am thinking about for however long I need. I’ll often think about some of my favorite writers, and, in a moment of utter frustration, I’ll try to write something in their voice, to mimic it as perfectly as possible. Though it doesn’t always mean I add great content to whatever piece I’m working on, it’s often a decent exercise to get my brain going again. One of my very favorite professors encouraged taking walks to avoid the zombie-effect of sitting too long staring at words on a screen, and I find that very helpful as well.-Tyler Wilborn(20th Anniversary Issue)