I immediately asked her which of the following areas of writing most interested her: journalism, fiction writing, biography, poetry, commercial writing, non fiction -research, etc. She said “fiction writing” was what she wanted to do. She was involved in a project that required her to “interview a writer.” I agreed to be interviewed. The questions she sent me were insightful. Here they are:
Q: What is a typical day on the job?
Q. Describe your work environment. Are you able to focus well? Is it comfortable?
Q: What made you want to do this type of work?
Q: Is there anything you would do to make your job more enjoyable (besides a rise in pay or promotion)? If not, what is your favorite part of your job?
Q: If you had to start all over again, would you choose the same career? Why or why not? What would be your other career choice?
Q: What are the negatives of working this job?
Q: What are the positives of working this job?
Q: Are there any tasks that you have been asked to do that you wouldn’t expect an author to do?
Q: What’s your creative process?
Q. How do you come up with ideas?
Q: Is there any advice you would give to young people interested in your field of work?
I took time to answer each question carefully, and in so doing, had the chance to consider who I am and why I write. I remember a comment by Anne Lamott, who answered the question of “why do you write” by citing poet John Ashbury who said, “Because I want to” and short story writer Flannery O’Connor who said, “Because I’m good at it.”
Writing is a skill that takes a time to perfect. I know of no writer worth his salt—to use a cliché-- who does not review, re-write, review, read aloud his/her work, and then rewrite or edit again. I have often told my students that their writing will improve if they take the time to read their themes or stories aloud because it’s amazing how the eye and the ear can help the voice interpret meaning.
Some aspiring writers who may think they can be writers really can’t if they write only when the weather outside is frightful. Aspiring writers should know that writing involves sitting down at a desk or table and actually putting words down on paper or computer—even when friends are doing amazing activities, or when the weather is nice and one wants to go to the beach, or when invited out to parties, lunches, socials, dances, and teas. In other words, writing is a singular thing, a lonely and demanding task.
A writer also needs quiet time in order to think, to market, and to answer insightful questions from students. I answered Phoenix’s first question quickly. There is no typical day. Never. I also added that my work environment is not conducive to writing. My desk is a piled with papers, my library shelves are overflowing with books and folders, and the computer I use the most is near the kitchen. I have a computer in my library, but it’s not in the best condition, and I will soon need to make a transition.
I had other answers to share with Phoenix about writing such as how I come up with ideas, and I gave her some good advice. I appreciated her questions because they made me realize that If I had to start all over, again I would choose to be a writer.