Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Writer’s Time Capsule

I’m a pack rat when it comes to my writing. I keep everything, including pieces I think are garbage. Every once in a while I dig through them just to look back on my journey as a writer. I recently stumbled across the following self-interview I wrote the fall after I graduated from college. Its one of several I recorded while pretending I’d made it big and was being interviewed in a magazine like Writer’s Digest. I’m sharing it with you today in hopes that it offers a little inspiration for you in your own journey.

When did you first become a writer?
I think Ive always been a writer, I just didn’t know it. Some of my earliest memories involve me scribbling lines across paper like I saw done in cartoons to help my dad with his work.

When I got into elementary school and learned how to write I started writing little stories and songs. Then for some reason I stopped when I reached high school. My sights were set on being a pediatrician and I focused on anything and everything I could that would help me become a doctor.

The funny thing was I noticed that I consecutively did better in English and writing classes. Friends would ask me to look over their papers. I would find typos in newspapers and the numerous books I consumed in my spare time. Yet despite that, a career in writing was something I didn’t consider until my junior year of college.

What made you change your mind about being a writer?
There were several factors involved, actually. It was, without a doubt, the most difficult decision I ever made. I went away to a small private college in Illinois and the entire time I was there I had this nagging feeling that I was making a mistake about the school I’d chosen, about becoming a doctor, about who I was. I spent a lot of time in the college greenhouse crying and arguing with myself and with God. I had told everyone I was going to become a doctor, I had volunteered at my local hospital for three years and loved every minute of it, yet even then I realized a part of me wondered if medicine was the right career for me.

In the end I transferred to Southern Oregon University, but the strain from the previous year and a overly demanding summer job had taken its toll and I ended up getting extremely sick. Ultimately that illness prevented me from doing well in any of my classes; I was put on academic probation, and I took some time off to reprioritize my life. It was at this time that an incredible opportunity appeared. I took a job as an editorial assistant, loved the job, and after many tearful, sleepless nights, decided to take some literature and writing classes just to see how it worked out. Since then I’ve never had cause to regret that decision. The classes interested me and fit me perfectly. My grades improved drastically, I was happy, and I started writing again.

What is the hardest part about being a writer?
Motivation. Sometimes I am completely obsessed and all I can do is write, then all of the sudden I want to do anything but write. Trying to find a balance between the two is difficult.

What advice would you give to a struggling writer?
Stop trying so hard. Unneeded pressure kills creativity. If you find yourself staring at the screen or the paper, yet nothing comes, do something else. Take a ten-minute walk and observe everything you see. Catalog objects of interest in the back of your mind and write them down afterwards, they might come in handy later. Read a book and observe how the author creates tension, suspense, images, everything — in the long run it will only improve your writing. Write whatever words come to your mind, even if it is as uninspiring as “I can’t think of anything to write. I hate staring at blank paper and not being able to get my thoughts out, it makes me feel like….” By simply writing and breaking past the impenetrable blankness and focusing on your feelings, you’ll be surprised by what simply flows from your fingertips. Keep all of your “ramblings” and peruse through them from time to time, they may hold the key you need to open that specific lock you stumbled across in the middle of the night.

Most importantly, remind yourself why you enjoy writing. Whether you write it down as an imaginary interview as I have done or just talk to yourself about it in the shower or with a friend, the reminder can get you excited again and send you flying back to your masterpiece.

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