Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor, Amy Spies! Amy is teaching a new one-day course this April, Curing Writer’s Block for Good, and sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and her upcoming course.

What sparks your creativity?
My creativity gets sparked by so many different things – An emotion. A scientific breakthrough. Some parting or meeting I notice in the distance. People in a restaurant who seem mismatched. Two people on opposite sides of a park bench who might know each other or might be total strangers. And then what happens? An accident? A romance? Or maybe they have zero connection, but someone is watching one of them from across the street in a black car, maybe a CIA agent or a private investigator. And the watcher wonders if the two bench sitters have a connection; so, the watcher starts following the second person, also. But the second person was not connected to the other person on the bench before – but becomes so because of this case of mistaken identity. What happens then?
My creativity gets sparked by wanting to know what will happen next, and then writing to uncover what that is.

What do you rely on for those times it’s difficult to find the time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to write?
I rely on my life experience – growing up with writer parents, learning for myself, and relearning that writing energy comes, goes, and often needs some down-time and nourishing. For me, at least, after I’ve written something, I don’t totally understand how it happened, and how I can do it again. That is why people talk about the dread of blank page that recurs anew. However, the other piece I am learning to trust is that the mindfulness tools which help with fears and self-judgements, also help with not just facing, but learning to embrace the blank page. By meditating or doing a mindful activity before writing, I am more able to still self-criticisms, and open myself to new ideas, inspirations. My ‘editor’s hat’ quiets down while I express myself. There is a place for the ‘editor’s hat’, but it comes later.

Joan Didion

What’s your favorite quote about writing?
So many, but I love the Joan Didion quote: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

I also love the Margaret Atwood quote: “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”

The final quote is about handling criticism (and self-criticism): “I’ve been all over the world and I’ve never seen a statue of a critic.” I read that this quote was attributed to Leonard Bernstein, but am not positive who said it first.

What excites you most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
I am excited by the idea of working with a diverse group of emerging writers. I love ideas and have so much respect for everyone’s unique creative self-expression. I enjoy helping my students bring their own vision and voice onto the page and then usher it out into the world.

What do you hope your students get from your course(s)?
I hope my Mindful Writing courses inspire my students to trust their creative instincts, to not be discouraged by inner and outer critics, and to let their authentic voices sing out in written words. As I mentioned above when referencing a writing quote from Joan Didion – for me, writing at its best is immersive self-discovery. My wish is to make the writing process an enjoyable, insightful, productive, and yes heroic journey for my students.

Thank you to Amy for taking time to share with us. Look for more instructor interviews coming soon!

Bree is the Assistant to the Director and Social Media Coordinator. You can email her at btodish@uclaextension.edu.

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