The Magnolia Review: Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?
Julia D. McGuinness: I work in different ways in different spaces. I love writing in coffee shops. There I can feel free to write in a playful, exploratory way, perhaps experimenting with ideas and writing spontaneously at the drafting stage. I can relax with the noise of life around me as it makes no demands on my personal attention.
When writing moves from drafting to crafting, I seek silence. This can be in the solitude of my study, overlooking our garden at home, and often with a quietly snoring cat in what used to be my easy chair.
I’m also privileged to live near Gladstone’s Residential Library in North Wales. The Library there is a beautiful, silent space. Since my Mother died early in 2016, I committed myself to making the time to spend a day there each week to read, reflect and write. My only ‘rule’ is that what I do there does not have to justify itself by being directly useful to my working life (though in fact, nothing is wasted).
TMR: What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?
JDM: Personal writing and the first drafts of creative writing are always done by hand. Somehow the physical process keeps me close and connected to my material. I can scribble, cross things out and literally write in any direction. When a more settled structure emerges—say, a particular shape for a poem, I’ll transcribe the latest draft onto computer and complete the work onscreen.
My favourite writing implement is my slimline turquoise and silver ballpoint pen. It feels elegant in my hand. Turquoise is my favourite colour—the perfect integrated blend of creative green and peaceful blue.
TMR: What is your routine for writing?
JDM: In my ideal world, I write in the morning and see clients or run workshops in the afternoon—what I call my ‘below the waterline’ and ‘above the waterline’ work. In practice, I write best in whatever uninterrupted blocks of time and space I can find. Committing to my non-negotiable Gladstone’s day keeps me anchored and disciplined in a weekly rhythm that prioritises writing.
TMR: How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?
JDM: I’ve enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. As a child I wrote stories for my younger brother and kept diaries for myself. Poetry became more important in teenage years as a way of expressing deep-felt emotion. I also created my own small magazine, which I called Check-In. I circulated it round relatives and family friends. Some of them did very well in my competitions, but the prizes weren’t very spectacular!
TMR: Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?
JDM: What a sensible, but difficult question! I hope to engage any reader who is interested or wants to be informed, (depending on the sort of writing). It sounds embarrassingly selfish to say I write for myself, but the truth is I write because I want to. I love the alchemy of turning experience, thoughts and feelings into words that can become a bridge to link to others’ lives.
TMR: What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?
JDM: Inspiration starts when something arrests my attention. I describe it as the feeling when a piece of our clothing snags on a piece of barbed wire: You have to stop and take note. It might be something I’ve read; words spoken to me or overheard; a picture; heart-stirrings in response to beauty or loss.
If I’m blocked, I try to step back or change tack, rather than try too hard to bash away at the rock! I might need a break, to write something different, or to seek some new stimulation and allows space to come back to a piece with a new perspective.
TMR: What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?
JDM: I enjoy time-out at the gym to re-balance by giving the body some attention and the mind a rest. It’s good to be out and about—we live near the historic city of Chester and some beautiful countryside.
TMR: What is your favorite part of the creative process?
JDM: I love the research and playing with possibilities; then I love crafting and honing what I’ve written. That middle bit, getting down to the first serious draft of words on the page, is the hardest!
TMR: What is your advice to aspiring writers?
JDM: Write foremost because you want to. Stay interested in reading and learning from others’ writing. Enjoy exploring and experimenting to find your own voice. Give yourself permission not to write perfectly, as otherwise you may feel inhibited about writing at all.
Check out Julia’s work in the issue, Volume 3, Issue 1.