Today on Examining The Creative Mind we have poet and blogger Alex Iwashyna. At the end of the interview please visit her blog to read more of her writing.
Where do you do your writing?
I write wherever. I once had an office, but we are in the process of moving so it’s not mine anymore. Sometimes I write in bed. Sometimes on the couch. Right now, I’m using my very messy kitchen desk.
One place I never write is outside. It’s too distracting and bright. I try, but I can’t and end up playing with my dog or cats instead.
Can you tells us a little about who you are and the kind of work that you do?
I once wanted to be a philosopher, but it seemed impractical so while I majored in political philosophy, I also took all the requirements to attend medical school. After I graduated from medical school and had my first baby, I decided to stay home instead of going on to a pediatric residency where I would be gone 60-80 hours per week from my son. After a year and a half, I missed my first love from before family or philosophy: poetry. I found a local class and a mentor found me. I wrote and published until I had my second child. After six months, I turned to blogging as a way to write daily and be accountable to an audience because I didn’t have the time and space and energy to work words into poems. My blog grew, and I fell in love with the genre.
What genre do you prefer to write in and why?
While I love blogging for the ease of finding an audience, it is demanding and fast-paced and unforgiving in some ways. For example, nothing can be taken off the Internet or a misspelled word can garner more comments than a well-sourced thesis. However, it is also too forgiving in that an emotional peek behind the curtain with no value beyond OMG LOL or a controversial slam with no science or research can be shared and talked about for days or weeks. Although I guess “days or weeks” aren’t that long. And I get to write in fragments much like my poems. If I had all the time in the world and needed no sleep to thrive as a kind human being, my preferred genre is poetry.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you practice?
I am a regimented writer. I do not give myself weeks off or only write when I “feel like it.” Writing is work and takes energy that I rarely want to give. What I mean is that I often feel a compulsion to give it, but the act of getting a story from my head to my screen or paper seems insurmountable. So I practice 3-6 times a week getting over the mountain. I also edit and edit and edit. I don’t sit down and write and am done. I write and rewrite and beg someone to read it after I’ve reread it five times. Yet still I find errors and embarrassments and the following day I can think of better titles. Writing is disappointment within triumph as people laugh and share and think and yell with and at me.
Are you influenced by any other creative mediums such as music, dance, art or film?
One of the most dangerous things I can do is get so immersed in only writing that I forget to dance or listen to music or take a walk in nature or laugh with my children or watch a movie (oh, how I love the movies). I have had weeks where I forget to live, and I find myself with nothing to write.
As a writer, is there anything specific you hope to accomplish?
I wanted my blog to be where I practiced my voice enough to write a book because I knew that writing poetry at regular intervals was (and still is) far off for me. I have both a fiction and a nonfiction book in mind. I have even run the nonfiction work by a well-published author and received a thumbs-up. But I let blogging and my freelance writing become so big that I haven’t had time to work on it anymore. These years of blogging have become a push and pull between making money and how many labors of love I chose to do.
As a writer, how do you define success?
I would like to say that I define it as a piece I am proud to read a week or a month later. I have caught myself defining success by how much money I make in a month or a year. I have been surprised by the success of a piece being defined by how much turmoil or joy with which it is shared across the Internet. I imagine success is more like my 86-year-old Nana using my blog as a jumping off place for her weekly Bible study when I haven’t mentioned God at all.
What do you think is your biggest strength?
I believe in deadlines even if I’m setting them for myself. Even the best bloggers, writers and artist fail when they stop creating work.
What is your biggest weakness?
I want to write about everything. I think if I had stuck to one or two areas of interest, my blog would have grown much larger much quicker. I would’ve been miserable though so it would not have been worth it. Probably.
Do you approach your work within a framework of rules or moral code?
I have a strong lines of public and private on my blog. I never blog about anything that would hurt another person to the best of my knowledge or ability. If I am telling a story that involves a stranger, I change all the details to hide their identity. For stories closer to home? Well, I have many stories that would make my blog more popular or daring, but I don’t believe are my stories to tell. I will tell people one-on-one if they glean something and reach out to me. An adult has approved of the story if they are in it as themselves. Children are trickier because even if they say, “Yes, that’s okay,” my kids are too young to understand what that means. So I don’t blog about my children daily, and I try to protect them in other ways by not using many identifiers. I also use the line, “Would we tell this story at their engagement party?” when I’m writing a post. If the answer is no, the post doesn’t go up. (I don’t actually care if they married — it’s just for perspective.)
What is the most important idea, belief, or dilemma you hope to address through your work? Is there a theme at the core of the work you do?
We aren’t defined by one belief. We, as thoughtful human beings, can come together to laugh and think and agree and disagree and come back the next day to the same thing.
Thank you, Alex!
If you would like to read more of Alex Iwashyna’s writing please visit her blog: Lateenough.com.