Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

I have lunch with the meme

lisalemonjello wrote an interesting interview meme about writing and writers. I don't always do memes, but this time let's play!

1. Do you call yourself a Writer (capital W) and, if so, when and how did the transformation from being someone who writes to becoming a Writer occur?

I do not call myself a Writer. I sometimes call myself a bad poet.

2. Do you write in more than one form (i.e. short fiction, poetry, essay, novel) and, if so, how is the process different one to another?

I write poetry and a bit of legal writing. I wrote a nanowrimo novel. Of course, I keep a weblog.

3. What Writers have been the biggest influence on you?

Wodehouse, Austen, Tolkien, Ford Madox Ford, Wilfrid Owen, CS Lewis,
Charles Williams, Evelyn Waugh, CP Snow, Miss Read, and too many others to list.

4. Would you rather be commercially famous or admired by other writers?

In a classic case of grapes past their "use by" date, I make a particular point of not trying to be either, but instead seeking to use my writing to make connections with other people, hunting what I call a "true moment" or a "real interaction".

If I must make a choice, I'd rather be commercially famous, I think, because I'd love to get invited to sci fi conventions. OTOH, it would be fun to be a "real somebody" that only a few cognoscenti know.

5. What is your successful image of a Writer. If you become successful what will (or does) that look like to you?

My definition of success is to have people ask you to read your poetry and who buy just enough of your book to cover your overhead in printing it.

6. Does it matter to you if people interpret your work in ways you never intended?


7. How honestly do you critique the writing of others?

I like to think I am frightfully honest. I do not believe in the traditional graduate seminar/writing workshop critique, but a more stringent and yet less "accuracy-driven" method I call "this works/does not work for me".

8. Do you worry about plagiarism when you write creativly on-line?

No. I merely pray for attribution.

9. Can writing be taught? How important is a formal education to making the writer?

Yes. Education is important, but it need not be formal. The Ph.D of the lending library--that's the degree for me.

10. Writing Workshops: What is your opinion of them? Have you ever been to one?

I have very little opinion of them. They might be fun. Never been to one.

11. Inspiration or perspiration?

I have known good writers who are nearly 100 percent perspiration.
I know none who are 100 percent inspiration. But I write poetry because I can work on one inspired image, without too much perspiration. I suspect the ideal mix is 70/30 perspiration/inspiration. For legal writing, make that 90/10.

12. What form(s) do you prefer - past, present, future, genre, time period, style?

My one novel was sci fi. But my true loves are the homily and the aphorism. I tend to write free verse, but I am no longer wed to doing so.

13. When writing, do you outline first or just begin and see where it takes you?

I never outline fiction or poetry, but often outline legal work.

14. How do you develop your characters? Settings? Plot?

I model them all on myself, more or less. My prose is a pretty
one-faceted thing.

15. How much do you take from real life and does a writer have the right to tell the stories of people they know?

I think that borrowing from real life is natural, but I do meet some folks who call fiction what they should call mere self-aggrandizement or relative bashing.

16. What kind of research do you do for your writing?

Legal research, for prose.

17. Do you have a process for re-writing?

Knock out passive case.
Knock out the trite stuff or reanimate it as irony.
Add in explanatory sentences.

18. What is your writing schedule?


19. What are your writing weaknesses and strengths?

I am good at jangling discordant images together so that they work out okay, like playing a symphony of cow bells. I have no ear for dialogue, and my poems are really merely chopped up aphoristic prose (but that's how I like them).

20. Who, if anyone, do you let edit your work?

I would let my wife in a heartbeat, as she is a tech writer and editor, but she's declined my invitations. She reads my work, and laughs at the punch lines, but does not edit.

21. Are there any writing taboos for you (for instance, swearing or graphic sex)?

Yes, but they are not swearing or graphic sex. Now that I think about it, I do not think I have written anything with graphic sex, but I can't imagine that's "taboo". I would find excessively violent or writing which demeans people in any of the various predictable ways less to my taste to write.

22. How do you avoid stereotypes in your writing and do you feel you are able to capture the truth in characters who are of a different gender or ethnicity?

My fiction prose work is rarely cohesive enough to have real characters, much less stereotypical ones. I find that I do best when I pretend that everyone is kinda like me.

23. Are there stories that are so close to you or others near you that you won't write them? If so, why won't you?

Yes. I would not invade the privacy of some people in my life, such as my wife or siblings.

24. How has your writing improved with time?

I am much more willing to show my feelings than I used to be. I am more silly than I used to be. I take myself both more and less seriously than I used to take myself. I am able to write much more quickly than 20 years ago.

25. Do you feel that you have found your voice?


26. What is the most important advice you can give to other writers in 5 words or less?

Don't "be a writer". Write.

27. Would you keep writing if you knew that no one else would ever read what you wrote?


28. Is there a question that wasn't asked that you'd like to be asked about your writing, writing in general, or writers?

Q. What do you think of wanting to be a professional writer?

A. If by "professional writer", one means a person who only writes books for a living, then one should realize how rare a bird a professional writer must be.
Almost all published writers have day jobs. Almost no published writers earn their living solely from writing.

Beyond the simple economics, I posit that the "professional writer" almost always must surrender creative control to secure a place in the marketplace. I advocate self-publishing and control of one's own sense of compromise and self-worth.
In the end it is not how many readers one has, or how much money one makes, but whether one has touched another's mind or soul.
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