How do we put ourselves in a creative mode of thinking? Is it as simple as sitting in front of a blank computer screen? Well, if you’re anything like me, that’s probably the worst place to try and be creative, with the internet and endless time-wasting vortexes a mere thumb tap away. How do the professionals approach writing and make time for it in their lives, among all the limitless distractions around us every day? We put the question to instructor Michael Buckley to learn a bit about his approach to writing, social media, and his upcoming Writers Studio course, Writing Scenes in Fiction.
Writers’ Program: What do you think about social media, in terms of how it relates to authors who are looking to get their work out there?
Michael Buckley: I put time into promoting my work through social media. All of my readings go up on Facebook, and I have email lists, everything I can think to do (except Twitter, which I admit I do not understand). That said, I think it can be easy to mistake promotion for work–that is, to confuse writing with promoting your writing. I’m a firm believer in writing time being kept sacred. Sometimes that’s difficult when you’re working on a computer. There’s just so many distractions–an embarrassment of riches in terms of killing time. That’s one of the reasons that I write my first drafts by hand. But one can’t deny the opportunities that social media represent. They’re an important and powerful way to get your work out there.
Wp’: Do you have any kind of daily writing routine you make sure you follow? Would you recommend new writers create one?
MB: Sometimes I write very early in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. Sometimes when I’m lucky I have five or six hours to work, completely undisturbed. Other times I cobble together a half hour here and there. I carry a notebook everywhere. I don’t do actual writing in it; it’s more ideas, sketches, bits of conversation, an image or two: anything I want to use later. That way, when I sit down I can draw on a whole day’s worth of material.
Wp’: Tell me about the room/area you write in – what is your ideal spot?
MB: I like to write in public. A coffee shop, museum, or park. I’m not sure why this is, but it probably has something to do with the strong urge I have to procrastinate every time the writing gets tough. (And this is often.) When I’m at home, I can return emails, read, or even bury myself in research for the project I’m working on–and get absolutely no writing done. It’s also wonderful to be able to watch people. Looking up from the tangle of sentences I’m working on and seeing two kids looking at a painting, or a couple talking over coffee, or someone getting angry at something they’re reading in the newspaper reminds me that stories are about connection, about redeeming this rapid flow of experience that is our lives.
Wp’: This winter you’ll teach Writing Scenes in Fiction as part of the Writers Studio. What can students expect from this workshop?
MB: In the “Scenes” workshop we’re going to proceed from the notion that good fiction comes from full characters interacting in well crafted scenes. We’ll develop these scenes from the ground up, learning how to write more evocative and technical sentences, understanding the mechanisms of character and setting, and tying all of it together into something that feels realistic but innovative. We’ll read good fiction, talk about it, write and talk about a good deal of our own fiction, and fill up our prose toolboxes to take back to individual work on short stories, novels, and creative non-fiction.
Wp’: What inspired you to write, from the very beginning? What keeps you going?
MB: Writing just helps me understand the world. Moments that confuse me; moments that shock or scare me; moments that mute me with their beauty: these only find form in written words. I can’t address them with any other kind of art. I can’t even discuss them very successfully.
Writing stories has always kept me sane, I guess.
Wp’: What are some of your favorite “new” writers out there?
MB: I just finished Adam Levin’s Instructions. It was mammoth and awesome and absolutely the best book I’ve read in ten years.
Sara Bond is the Program Assistant for Creative Writing.