My interview with NF Reads

Recently I was contacted by Tony Eames of NF Reads to be interviewed for NF Reads Website which features articles on a wide variety of topics. My interview is one of several featured authors. You can find my interview here.

Thanks in advance for reading!


“No one forces you to ply the trade you follow. But if you do choose it, then acquit yourself to the best of your ability. And above all, you should not think of writing as a way of earning your living. If you do, your work will smell of poverty. It will be colored by your weakness and be as thin as your hunger. There are other trades which you can take up… Our opinion of you will not be any poorer, and since you will be sparing us acres of boredom, we may even think the better of you.” – Essay on Novels, The Marquis de Sade

On the face of it, that statement seems rather bleak, doesn’t it? Don’t all of us writers dream of being able to write full time, rather than fitting it in around our already busy schedules? That is certainly my ultimate goal. However, that’s not quite what the Marquis is getting at…

Writing has its peaks and valleys, soaring heights and bottomless pits. If you’ve been writing for a while, you know what that feels like. Sometimes the Muse chatters, the words flow and you scribble furiously to get it all down or tap violently on the keyboard as the story unfurls before you. It’s your best work. It’s brilliant, in fact. You read and re-read, carefully editing and correcting your errors. Then you deliver it into the world, whether it be to your blog, as a self published book on Amazon or within a query letter to an agent. You eagerly await a response.

And nothing….

You get a few likes on your blog, maybe some vague praise in the comments. “Nice work.” “Great post.” Your book languishes, sales are weak, nonexistent even. The agents are silent, or worse, dismissive… “Thank you, but your work isn’t a good fit for me. Good luck in your journey…”

It takes some spine and some determination to keep your head above water in the flood tide that is the vast ocean of writing and publishing these days.

Here is where the Marquis’ advice applies. Even if the Marquis and his notorious behavior puts you off, in many he ways his unwavering determination to follow his nature holds for us a lesson. (For some biographical details on de Sade, see The Passionate Philosopher, by Mr Cake). Maintain your artistic vision and integrity. Do not pander to popular trends among current best selling books. The world does not need another 50 Shades of anything, for example. (The irony of using that as an example in a post quoting the father of sadism is not lost on me.) Don’t lose sight of the reasons you began to write in the first place. No one should choose to write or compose solely to make a living. Rather, you must write out of love. You must write because the words would burn you from the inside if you didn’t let them out. That is the stuff we want to read.

Nevertheless, we all want to be appreciated, have readers enjoy what we write. But it is a rare thing to achieve overnight success. Yet we have all come to expect instant gratification. With so much information at our fingertips, we are confused and discouraged if we can’t have ‘it’ right this very moment. Aspiring authors need to have a long view. To continue the ‘head above water’ analogy – it’s like swimming the English Channel rather than doing a lap in a pool. There will be times when it feels like those distant shores are no closer. You may stop and tread water for a while to catch your breath. You need strong steady strokes to keep going. Slowly but surely progress is made. And if you’re lucky, you have lots of friends and family in the support boat to cheer you on.

Don’t let your desire for validation derail your dreams. Whatever you write, for whomever you write, on whatever medium you write, remember that you love to write. And that alone makes it worth it.

Photo via English Channel Swim . com

Time Is Not On Your Side

I’ve written about this before, but it’s been a while and I thought it was worth revisiting. The photo is my own of the clock face at Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

I write. A lot. Four books in two years, a fifth near completion, several completely unrelated projects, including all the poetry, non-fiction and short stories I’ve posted here. Recently, a friend of mine asked how I had time to write like that. The short answer is: I have no life. Ok, that’s a joke, sort of. Many of us who are trying to live the writing life are fitting it into an already busy schedule. How does someone with a day job manage to carve out time in the day to write? Schedules vary, but there are some principle to apply.

In the days when I was in practice at another doctor’s office, I had a long commute –nearly an hour. In the morning, I regularly tuned in to NPR’s Morning Edition. On one of those long drives, I heard an interview with author, Nora Roberts. For those of you who don’t know her, she is a ‘rock star’ of romance writers. She has written over 209 novels in her illustrious career. Now, love it or hate it, the romance genre has been underrated by literary snobs for no good reason. Jane Austen was a romance writer. So were the Bronte sisters, Margaret Mitchell, Gustave Flaubert, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton – need I say more? Anyway the style of writing has nothing to do with the point I’m trying to make.

Back to Nora’s interview, and the big impression it made on me. She said she approaches her writing like any other person would approach their work day. She gets up early, exercises, puts the coffee pot on and by 8:00, she is at her desk to write for an 8 hour day! That’s right, a full work day. Writing is work, albeit very enjoyable work, but work nonetheless.

Though I still have a day job, I have tried to impose that kind of discipline upon my writing. Every weekday, I get up early and write for an hour or so, exercise and go to the office (now it’s in my home) to see my patients. Tuesday and Thursday, the days I don’t have office hours, I keep on writing. (So that’s how she does it!) I set deadlines to keep from getting off track. I have writing goals for my novel series, for my blog and for the unrelated projects like Here Lies a Soldier and The Mysterious Arboretum.

Anyway, the trick is to be analytical and slightly selfish when it comes to your writing. aggro-gatordotcom25355Take a look at your weekly schedule. How much time do you spend in front of the TV? Playing video games? Fooling around on Facebook and Twitter? I know, I know, I do it, too. This is time you could be spending on your writing. On the other hand, don’t let your writing become so burdensome that you lose your joy. After a big project is complete, or sometimes in the middle when you’re hitting the wall, take a break, step back and recharge your batteries.

Here are some things you should NOT sacrifice for time to write:

-your spouse/partner and children (unless you secretly can’t stand them)
-your health and wellness: take time to exercise, drink plenty of water and eat healthy food – it powers your brain (also booze, but that’s a subject for it’s own post)
-your spiritual life: whatever that means to you, be it meditation, prayer, or just quiet time to think (also gives you a legitimate excuse to ignore your family)
-reading for pleasure: writers need to read, period
-spending time with friends (if you still have any)

unknown-1Why that last one? Because frankly, writers spend a lot of time in our own heads and can invent our own friends by writing them. I am totally guilty of that. While that internal chatter is essential for good writing, you have to turn it off once in a while. Don’t give up the chance to have real life human connections in order to create your fantasy world.

Writers, the bottom line is if you are going to do this, your writing can’t get shuffled so far to the bottom of the pile that you never finish anything. If you find that happening to you ALL THE TIME, then reevaluate your plan to be a writer. Maybe the writing life is not for you. That’s ok, too. Be a reader. After all, someone’s got to read all this stuff we write!

How about the rest of you? Writers, how do you find time to write?

(As always, some of that was meant to be humorous. I assume you’re all savvy enough to pick out the useful stuff from the nonsense.)