Episode 33: Today we’ve got our first guest-hosted episode with writer Jesse Hawley! Get ready for some great insights into the challenges faced by aspiring writers and some practical and effective tools to overcome them!
Welcome back to the Inside Creative Writing Podcast! My name is Brad Reed and I’m thrilled that you’re spending some time with me today on the Inside Creative Writing Podcast. A few weeks ago, I announced a new feature of the show—occasional guest hosts. These are a little different than interviews in that, rather than me asking questions that I think our writing community would like to hear, a guest host instead puts together an entire segment of the show about a writing topic that they are especially passionate about. I couldn’t be more pleased that our first guest host is writer Jesse Hawley. He’s a long-time supporter of the show, a member of the Patreon team, and has a lot of great, unique insights into what it means to be a writer. Jesse says he’s been writing for two years and, for his segment, he’s looking back on the lessons he’s learned and the discoveries he’s made as a new writer. I’m actually going to take exception to Jesse’s claim that he’s only been writing for two years, but you’ll have to wait for the wise word segment after we hear from Jesse for my reasoning behind that. So, without further adieu, I’d like to introduce guest host Jesse Hawley and some great, unique insights that are going to benefit writers of any experience level. I know they were beneficial and useful to me, and I’m sure they will be for you, too…
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesse Hawley for doing such a great job as our first guest host here on Inside Creative Writing. I’m especially taken with the metaphor he used when talking about building up the desire to sit down and write. I’ve never approached my writing time like that, but I think there’s real value and wisdom in it, and I look forward to experimenting with it in my own writing life. It reminds me of something one of my early writing teachers used to say, and I’m going to use that as our Wise Word for today. Alan Heathcock, who’s been a guest on our show before, was one of my early writing professors at Boise State University. One of the things he says that sticks with me still to this day is, “You’re never not a writer.” Writers, in a way, are ALWAYS writing. We tend to see the world differently than non-writers do. We notice the details of life, we recognize the unusual turn of phrase that a friend might use and see stories in the world all around us. We are watchers of the world and we are constantly mining it for elements of story that we can use in our writing. This is why I said at the beginning of the show that I think Jesse is selling himself short by saying he’s only been writing for two years. He may have only been intentional about getting stories put down on the page for two years, but I can tell he’s been interacting with and exploring the world as a writer does for a lot longer than that.
Another thing I like about this concept that we are “never not writers,” is that it helps us remember how much more there is to writing than just putting words down on paper. When we are staring blankly off into space, letting our stories play in our minds as if on a movie screen, we are, in a sense, writing. When we are exploring the world and meeting new people and having new experiences we are, in a sense, writing. When we are in the shower and that bolt of inspiration comes that unlocks the difficult scene we’ve been plotting, we are, in a sense writing. There’s something beautiful about that, I think. But there’s also something a little dangerous because it can result in a sort of pernicious procrastination, too. Ultimately, it does take sitting down at a keyboard and putting one word after another on the page, but don’t discount the ways in which you are a writer in all the other aspects of your life as well.
This week’s challenge is do something you’ve never done before or go somewhere you’ve never been before. This week is all about getting out of your comfort zone and waking up to an aspect of the world you’ve never experienced. This, I think, is part of what it means to be a writer. And I don’t mean finally doing something you’ve always wanted to do or finally going somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. I want you to scare yourself a bit this week. I want you to do something you never thought you’d do, that may be entirely out of character for you. When I give this challenge to writers, they often think I mean seedy or dangerous things—go to a strip club if you’ve never been or jump out of an airplane. And it could be that type of thing, but it could also be something much more tame. It could be sitting in on a court case, or volunteering at a school, or going to a Rotary meeting in your community. It could be having lunch at that place where it seems only a certain ethnic group eats, or helping at a food kitchen for the homeless, or going to an unfamiliar church service. We tend to live in tiny little bubbles of familiarity, which can be a real problem when we’re writing about people, places, and cultures outside of that bubble. Do something this week that wakes you up to the way other people live and the experiences they have. Even if nothing you discover ends up in a story you write, the experience will help you see the peculiarities of your own world in a new light and make you a better writer of those things.
That’s going to wrap it up for this week. If you’re enjoying the podcast, I’d love it if you’d Tweet about it or mention it to some of your writer friends and maybe even leave us a review on iTunes or whatever app you use to listen. Also, please consider joining the Patreon team. If you’re interested in submitting a guest segment to the show like Jesse did, just head over to BradReedWrites.com and you’ll find everything you need to know. I’d love to get your voice on the air and share your insights and discoveries with our writing community.
Until next week, remember the best way to improve your craft is by writing. That’s what I’m off to go do, and I hope you’re off to do the same. Let’s get some words on paper this week and we’ll meet up again next week for another episode of the Inside Creative Writing podcast!