Questionnaire for Writers

Zephr of Presents of Mind has posted a series of questions for writers on her blog. After posting my comments, I decided to post the answers to those questions here too.

My new (old) desk, handmade by my grandfather.

Where do you write?
I write mostly at a desk that was handmade by my grandfather. Although when I need a change of scenery, I will take my laptop and write in a coffee shop. I don’t mind the ambient noise around me.

What are your writing habits?
I usually turn on some music – classical music when I’m writing fiction and electronic dance music when I’m writing blog posts or my journal. If I plan to be writing for some an hour or more, I’ll make some tea or coffee in an insulated travel mug. Lately, I’ve been writing in my journal before working on my novel. The journalling serves as a brain dump and warm up for novel writing.

How do your write your first drafts?
I’ve been writing the first draft of my novel on the computer. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with Scrivener for Mac to see if it will help me organize all the bits and pieces I’ve writtten. I’ve written first drafts for short stories and non-fiction pieces longhand in spiral bound notebooks – the kind we used at school. I jot down notes and story ideas in a Moleskine. I’ve also developed an obsession for fountain pens as I like how smooth the ink flows across the page.

Subsequent drafts?
Sebsequent drafts are written on the computer. I’ve also used Pages as a word processor – I don’t like using Microsoft Word at home, as I have to use it at work.

Do you keep a writing journal or notebook?
I’ve got several notebooks on the go – a Moleskine for novel notes, an Orla Kiely notebook found on sale for blog post ideas and an ordinary spiral bound notebook for short story drafts.

How do your organize your journal/notebook?
I don’t really organize my notebooks, other than having several of them for different types of writing. I like the idea of dividing a single notebook into different sections, but haven’t gotten around to that idea. I also jot down ideas on index cards.

What’s your biggest challenge as a writer?
My biggest challenge is making the time to write. I’ve found it too easy to let other areas of my life take over.

Do you have a good luck talisman? What is it?
I’ve framed the first ever acceptance letter I got when I was fourteen years old. I’ve had other pieces published since then, but it serves as a nice reminder that I was able to get something published when I was young and didn’t know any better!

Which writers have most influenced you or inspired you?
When I was fifteen years old, I discovered Hemingway – the simple brilliance of his writing blew me away, even though I don’t always like his subject matter. I also love Alice Munro, Ian McEwan, Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell, Lorrie Moore and Virginia Woolf.

What genre(s) do you (aspire to) write?
Literary fiction, literary non-fiction and travel writing. Someday, I’d like to try my hand at a fantasy novel, something like Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

Any quirky habits you’ve developed?
No, unless you count a weakness for ridiculously expensive fountain pens and Apple computers.

I’ve learned about writing – and continue to learn – by attending writing workshops. I’ve been fortunate to have some excellent instructors who provide excellent feedback and really push the students to also provide useful critiques. I also read books by authors admire. I’ve read more books about writing than I care to admit. Some of these books have been useful – some not. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, A Passion for Narrative by Jack Hodgins and The Art of Fiction by David Lodge have been particularly good. I’ve learned the hard way that the only way to really learn how to write is to just write and rewrite and rewrite…


4 thoughts on “Questionnaire for Writers

  1. I loved the expression “brain dump”, and the last sentence of your last answer forms a great piece of advice & a motivation as well for me to continue writing.

  2. Is the photo of your grandfather’s hand-made desk? I love the cubbyholes and vertical doors. It’s always fun to get a visual of a writer’s workspace.

    • Yes, that’s my grandfather’s desk in the photo. I’ve always loved old-fashioned roll-top desks, so when I inherited this desk I was pretty happy. I stash fountain pen ink in the cubbyholes (behind the computer) and keep pens, notebooks, etc. in the drawers on either side.

  3. Pingback: Day 20 (Questionnaire for Writers like Timotheus) « Timotheus "Pharaoh" Gordon

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