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Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?
My desk faces a lovely view out my window, but my chair is uncomfortable. I should probably replace it, but I like that it matches the desk. It’s a classic case of style versus comfort.
What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?
I do most of my writing on my 2010 MacBook Pro. I’m thinking of a younger, sleeker, lighter-weight model. Maybe she and I will venture out to coffee shops. I live in Los Angeles, so maybe people will see me typing away on my sleek, new laptop and assume I’m writing a screenplay. Maybe Jessica Chastain would play me.
What is your routine for writing?
Writing is generally agonizing for me, so I try to make it a routine like brushing my teeth or going to the gym. And I try to do it after those two things on most days, at least during the week.
How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?
I’m not one of those writers who say they can’t remember a time before they started writing. I do recall in the 1st grade I loved to pull out laminated images from magazines that were kept in a box in the classroom and dictating a story about those images to a teacher’s aide. I wrote for the student newspaper when I was in high school. That was followed by a dry spell when it comes to writing, except the sterile scholarly articles I published as a professor, which I don’t consider to be “real writing.” I missed having a job title after leaving my profession, so I started saying I was a writer. Then I had to live up to that title.
Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?
I don’t necessarily have an intended audience when I sit down to write, but it’s a great feeling when people have a reaction to something I’ve published.
What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?
Often I’m inspired by something I’ve read or some conversation sparks an idea. Then later something comes to me while I’m walking my dog or taking a shower or brushing my teeth. I’m a firm believer in the importance of good oral hygiene.
When I feel blocked — pretty much every time I sit down to write — I chew lots of gum. I don’t know if the gum helps with the writer’s block, but it satisfies my urge to get up to check what’s good to eat in my kitchen. I do lots of that too.
What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?
I’m playing in the genre of memoir so in a way I’m always writing. When I’m going somewhere with my daughter or talking with my mom on the phone, it’s all my life and that’s material.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
I love bouncing ideas around and sharing work in progress with my writer friends.
What is your advice to aspiring writers?
Writing can be an isolating activity, so it’s nice to be part of a writers’ group that can provide camaraderie.
Check out Mara’s work in Volume 4, Issue 1.
Mara Cohen, Ph.D. is a writer, public speaker, civic activist and mother working on a memoir about family and resilience. Her personal essays have appeared in an eclectic mix of publications, from The Nervous Breakdown (2017) to Chicken Soup for the Soul (forthcoming), from Jewrotica (2015) to Mothers Always Write (2015) and a dozen others. She has also written articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and general news outlets. Her greatest joy is spending time with friends and family. Read more of her work at maracohen.com.