Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?
I write at home the majority of the time, but since I always have a notebook with me (a Moleskine, of course!) in my purse at all times, if I find myself in a cafe with the urge to write something, I write! And I have a large notebook by my bed, because irritatingly enough, it seems that one of my most creative times is that magical time between wakefulness and falling asleep. How many times have I been dropping off to sleep and had to turn on the light to jot down an “important” writing thought that popped into my head! I also have a notepad in my car and in the kitchen. My work place is littered with bits of paper! My cat is definitely part of my work space, either with her tail draped across the computer keys, on the chair next to me, or on my lap.
What kind of materials do you use? Do you write by hand or type? What is your favorite writing utensil?
I would have to say that I am very comfortable writing on my laptop. I trained as a typist (oh horror!) so feel totally comfortable with a keyboard in front of me. Before the computer I had a portable typewriter and was quite at home using it. I write by hand when I am in a particularly quiet moment, late at night perhaps, when I want to write poetry. Then I like the quietness of the pen and paper approach.
What is your routine for writing?
Well, I wish it were different! Even when I have a whole day stretching out in front of me for writing, between one thing and another (like clearing my inbox and answering emails, and perhaps baking a pie), I usually end up writing seriously about 4 p.m. I keep going as long as I need to to feel satisfied. I am still struggling to understand why I procrastinate. I love writing, it makes me happy, people seem to enjoy my writing, so why do I put off starting? I don’t know if it’s fear of failure, fear of success, fear of commitment to the particular piece of writing I’m working on. One day I hope to overcome this and just plod away steadily, disciplining myself to write about 500 words a day. I always feel I never have enough alone time.
How long have you been writing? When did you start writing?
I have written ever since I was a child. I still have my early diaries, more often than not expressing my anxiety about the meaning of life, and WHAT/WHO IS GOD?! Then I progressed to journals to absorb my inner condition. In the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, when I was living in Rome, Italy, I had a weekly column in an international newspaper. I wrote mostly about food, travel, restaurant reviews, with lots of personal anecdotes. I was teaching aerobics at the same time, so I was very busy indeed. A weekly publication schedule is very demanding, but I loved it more than I can say.
Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you write for?
I don’t think I write for an audience. I write for me. I always read out loud what I have written, because I want to sense the music of my words. My thought is that if I like something, then perhaps others will also, but it’s not important to my creative process at all. Writing for me is the best anti-neurosis tool. (Any creative activity is anti-neurosis!) If I don’t write I can feel myself becoming more and more neurotic! However, of late, I have been nurturing the hope that my writing can bring light, love, inspiration, comfort, meaning to some lives. If my writing can touch just one heart, then I shall not have written and lived in vain. We can create a ripple effect.
What inspires you to write? If you are blocked, what do you do?
Well mercifully, I rarely feel blocked. I keep a file in my computer, called “Ideas,” and I have 45 pages so far of things I want to write about. My notes could be single words that inspire me, or phrases, or a thought I heard someone express, or a conversation I overheard. I write them ALL down, and then when I need inspiration, I go to my Ideas file. Mostly though I am overwhelmed daily by things I want to write about!
What other things do you do besides writing? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?
I paint, I play piano, I definitely exercise at least three times a week, I garden, and I read. I guess I could say that my three major passions are reading, gardening, and classical music. My idea of utter bliss it to be home, in silence, and read for several hours during the day without feeling guilty! There are not enough hours in the day for reading AND writing! I’m not painting at this moment because all my energies are going into my writing.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
I think I would have to say the completion of a piece of writing. When I have not written for just a few days, I begin to feel quite ill. Something moves around in me and builds up tension until I sit down and write it out. And then, OMG, it is like giving birth! I feel light, I feel “justified,” I feel relieved, for a few days. And then it starts up all over again. Writing is definitely my means of fighting the neurosis that all creative people experience. And when I am swept up on the wings of the creative impulse, then time ceases and the world recedes, and I go into what I would call kyros as opposed to chronos.
What is your advice to aspiring writers?
Probably the same that all writers give! If you feel the urge to write, then JUST WRITE! And above all, don’t worry about creating the perfect text with the first draft. Get down those reeling thoughts in whatever order they come. You can sort them out later and discipline them into some sort of sequence. But you don’t want to lose the muscularity of expressing your thoughts spontaneously. And never, NEVER listen to nay-sayers! Share your writing with friends who are tried and true, AND NOT JEALOUS of your talent. So hone your perception of people, and trust yourself.
Writing is a gift that we can share with others eventually, but that we share with ourselves first of all.
You should not take rejections personally, or be downcast or deterred. Selection for publication is a very personal one, and truly, one editor’s meat could be another editor’s poison! In order to achieve 53 acceptances last year I submitted 305 times. As Winston Churchill said, “We shall never give up/surrender”!!
Check out Susan’s work in Volume 4, Issue 1 and Volume 4, Issue 2.