What to ask an author

Today, Tayari Jones is interviewing Khaled Hosseini, the author of Kite Runner. She’s been compiling and polishing questions to pose:

First of all, I love Tayari’s approach to life. I really enjoyed meeting her in person during the release of her novel, Silver Sparrow. She was vibrant and full of encouragement. I follow her musings and world traveling via social media, and I always find her updates authentic, thoughtful, or inspiring.

The tweets above are no exception.  She realizes Hosseini may be tired from a long flight, and she concedes the participants may not want to hear the standard questions asked of authors in general, or of this author in particular. I appreciate her open-minded, open-hearted approach to frame this experience for all involved.

I responded to Tayari on Twitter and FB. Here are a few questions I’d want an author to discuss:

  • Talk about your writing journey. Not just professionally, but personally. How/why did you begin writing?
  • You’re best known for {insert topic or genre here}. What other {topic or genre} would you be willing to tackle? Why?
  • What’s the dream project you’d love to write? (But maybe you haven’t b/c of time, expertise, doubt, etc.).
  • Do you ever have to balance writing authentically vs. writing for commercial success? If so, how do you navigate that? In other words, do you find yourself writing for the audience, more than  self?
  • Regarding an author’s favorite piece: What makes this piece your favorite? What do you hope readers will take from this work?
  • Especially of fiction writers: What is the writer’s role in today’s society?
  • Especially for seasoned writers: How has your approach to writing changed as your life circumstances have changed?

That’s my list! If you could pose any question to an author, what would you ask?

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It’s supposed to be fun…


It’s early yet, but so far this #30in30 has been pretty easygoing. I have less time this round, and, happily, less angst. I’m more relaxed, perhaps because I’ve done it once and I know I can do it. Or perhaps because I realize I can’t always publish thoughtful, well-crafted posts, and that’s fine. I’m exercising my writing muscles, and carving out more time to think about a variety of things, and that’s the main reason I took up the challenge. For bloggers out there feeling a little burned out, this one’s for you…

The Daily Post

In a workshop I gave for some bloggers earlier this year, I opened by talking about my three blogging mantras — and then had a “facepalm” moment when I realized I’d never shared them with you:

Nothing is permanent.

Don’t panic.

This is supposed to be fun.

If they sound self-evident, that’s because they are . . . but we still lose sight of them from time to time. Today, let’s take a break from phoneography for a moment of perspective.

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A thank you note.

I promised myself I would write. I owe it to myself to keep my promise.

Joshunda’s sentiment to write as exploration and truth-telling, and ultimately as an expression of self-love, resonated with me months ago.  That afternoon we talked love, pets, career, life, all in no particular order. Mostly we talked writing.

We talked writing as inquiry. As work. As joy. As required. As radical.  

I hear her voice whenever I talk myself out of writing.

When I procrastinate until “later today.”  Or when I say “tomorrow.”  I hear her voice when brilliance flashes at inconvenient moments, and I neglect to take note.  When I resist.  When I do anything other than sit and listen to the ideas clamoring to be revealed, or prodded, refuted, developed, acknowledged…I hear her voice.

Today, I am listening. And writing.

Thank you.
xoxo

Writing Round Up

So an interesting thing happened. I wrote every day in August to build a writing habit. Even though it was difficult, and some days I composed opening lines with a begrudging heart, it seems the habit part stuck. It’s the 6th of September. Purposely, I have not made any attempt to write each day, but my silence has been instructive. I miss writing.

I won’t promise daily posts, although I do plan to hang around this space a bit more regularly. Hope you will, too.

~

Trying something new this month, thanks to a suggestion from Joshunda. In case you missed them, here were the top five posts from August:

  • How do you persevere in challenging times? That’s the heart of sustaining faith.
  • Giving yourself permission to take up space is no easy feat, but it’s worth it.
  • Seems I had a lot to say about continuing when daily life seems hard. Sure, acknowledge the hardships, but don’t stop there.
  • Lots of people have pets and pet allergies, including me. But I love my Missy anyway.
  • Love is revolutionary act. What or who can you change if you start from love?

Don’t Give Up | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy

Anyone who has ever made a resolution discovers that the strength
of their determination fades with time.
The important thing is not that your resolve never wavers,
but that you don’t get down on yourself when it does and throw in the towel.
~Daisaku Ikeda

23 down. 7 to go:

I have made a commitment to write (and share) every day for 30 days. Some days it’s been a joy – especially those days when I have time to truly craft or be playful on the page. It’s also rewarding when I’m feeling a bit righteous and want to make a little noise about something on my heart. Unfortunately, not all days are sunshine. When I’m tired, or my day simply hasn’t gone as planned, I often debate skipping and just catching up the next day.

But so far I haven’t done that.

It’s difficult, continuing. I think it’s important to just acknowledge that. Even if you enjoy something, you may not enjoy it the same every day. And even if you’re committed to something, your commitment may not look the same every day. But here’s the thing… even though we acknowledge something is not as easy as we’d like, I think we owe it to our commitment not spend too much time lamenting.

Lamenting is the magic expander. It makes everything loom larger than it actually is. This is so hard, we think to ourselves over and over again. And suddenly we’ve made the thing heavier. We’ve made the task larger. And then it becomes too much! We mop our brow, woozy from the imagined strain. Tomorrow, we think. Maybe I can manage it tomorrow.

Just when I’m whipping out the handkerchief, ready to call it a night, I often realize that I have the same power to shrink the task as I had to enlarge it. And I tell the lamenter thank you, but your services are no longer needed. I remind myself of my original goal, and go from there.

My goal is to build a writing habit. That means I simply need to write. Something. Anything. Even a five-minute freewrite.

It all counts.

That doesn’t mean there won’t come a day when you really don’t have it in you. Not five minutes. Not five words. And that’s okay, too. On those days, be gentle with yourself. Who deserves your love, if not you? Don’t give up on your original determination. Don’t give up on you.

And this makes 24. 9:53 p.m. Home office.

The Writer’s Garden | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy.

I wake up in the morning with writing on the brain. Prone in bed, stretching various limbs, I pepper myself with silent questions. What do you want to post today? Are you going to write that bit about civics? You’re going to the beach later, so how about starting your “Lessons from the Ocean” series? Oh! What about that interesting article? The one you favorited last night?

Grasping for ideas, one invariably jumps up and shouts, “Me! Pick me!”

“Ah-ha!” I think. “I’ve found you!” And so the game begins.

I start my day, usually with some sort of exercise. If I’m lucky, it’s a running day, and I mentally compose my post during the four-mile trek around my neighborhood.

More often than not, I am unable to write immediately after this exercise-induced mind-composing, but I keep those words in a death grip. Sometimes I jot down key ideas. Other times I whip out my phone and record a memo. Every now and then I leave it up to chance, because how could I ever forget this brilliant idea? {Insert knowing groan here}. Hours pass. Locations change. Energy levels rise and fall. But I maintain hopeful excitement. Today’s post will be easy! I’ve already composed it. I’ve just got to get it down.

Finally, writing time arrives. There I sit, fingers gently resting on the home row. I cue up the feeling I had when the idea demanded to be chosen. I pull up the post on my mental screen. And out comes…

Nothing.

I remind myself that this is no big deal, and where are the words you’ve already put together? Just type them! After staring at the screen, perusing whatever documents are handy, playing on social media, looking at my phone, etc., words pour out.

And they are wholly unrelated to the morning’s ah-ha! Not even distant cousins. Strangers.

But here’s the revelation: The words are not strangers to me. They are acquaintances. They are the ah-ha idea from a few days prior.

It’s almost as if the initial thinking is akin to my planting a seed. Just like any other seed, it isn’t ready to sprout right away. It requires nourishment and time. And when the proper conditions exist, the plant grows and blossoms.

This has made me realize a couple of things:

  1. I really do need to keep a steady stream of ideas flowing. If they each take their own sweet time to bloom, I’ve got to sow a full crop! Planting a new seed each day means I’ll have more to tend to and grow in the future.
  2. I must embrace my process. Rather than feeling frustrated that the words I intended are not yet ready to sprout, I should just feed them. That can mean more reading on the topic. Freewrites. Dreams. Talking about it with friends, and so on. Either way, the ideas of today are the essays of tomorrow. But only to the degree I nurture them.

I know what you’re thinking. Writers don’t always have the luxury of coming back to an idea when it’s ready. If you’re on a deadline, you must write anyway! Having written on deadlines, I know this is true. But I also know I usually have an assignment long before the deadline. I start thinking about it right away. I may start the mind-composing immediately, even jot down a few things. But a serious attempt at a draft? Nope.

Key parts of the story go underground. They need time to mature. Fortunately, most of the time, they are ready to bloom just when I’m ready write.

To my fellow writers – it’s just as Tayari and others say. We may not be able to writelikecrazy everyday, but we can trylikecrazy, and honor our process. Let’s keep planting seeds and tending our gardens. I’m confident our efforts will bear fruit.

On Worthy Writing | #30in30 #WriteLikeCrazy.

The 30in30/WriteLikeCrazy challenge has proven a good workout for my writing muscles. It’s early yet – this is my sixth post in as many days – but in addition to getting words on the page, I’ve also engaged in a decent bit of self-reflection.

Prior to this, my daily decision-making was thus: “to write or not to write?” Usually the answer was “not to write.” Never short on reasons, I chose from:

  • No time
  • No topic
  • No audience
  • No confidence
  • No expertise
  • Just no

With this challenge, the game has changed. New decision points are, “what time will I write” and “what shall I say?”

As to what time, I had dreams of creating a daily writing block. 8-9 a.m., for example. But dreams fade upon waking, and reality kicks in. Although I enjoy morning writing, my schedule varies each day. Other must-dos (prayer and exercise) hold the earliest and most stable time slots, and I’m simply not willing to wake before 5 a.m.

Even though I can’t commit to a recurring time block, I can commit to the writing. I review the next day’s schedule and find 25-45 minutes. Sometimes a bit more. This is a big deal. I like to marinate, so I prefer long blocks of time to write (2-4 hours minimum). But since my focus is on volume and regularity, I try not to stress over the seedlings that require more time and attention.

As to the daily topics, well here’s where it gets interesting.

I’ve been a muted writer for years, feeling as though I had nothing to say. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and I’d like to enter some of these thoughts into the public discourse.

I embrace the idea of writing-as-thinking. Writing is often presented as a neat assemblage of final thoughts. Your job, in many cases, is to bring the reader along with you to a shared conclusion. But a lot of the thinking happens in the composing. And finished pieces do not necessarily equal finished thoughts. Herein lies my dilemma.

I wish to write my way through the thinking of things. And I need to post something. But I can’t post just anything. So I censor myself. I don’t write about this or that topic because my thinking is too tentative for presentation.

I don’t write the urgent thoughts I chew on all day long. It’ll take too long to make sense of certain topics, and my daily writing time is limited. But again, I have to post something, right? It’s almost as if building the habit of writing is getting in the way of the reason to write in the first place.

I’m grappling with a solution.

I’ve considered, for instance, serializing more complex thinking. I’ve done a bit of that so far, although I have yet to come back and write follow-ups to my opening statements. I’ve considered super short entries for daily posts. This can free most of my allotted time for stealth mode wherein I’d write-think ideas too messy for public consumption.

I dunno.

Is this a challenge for you? If so, how are you handling it? What writing is worthy to post?