(originally published 2012)
I’ve heard that one of the great parts of being a dad is that you can recapture what it’s like to be a kid again. Relive your childhood.
But I don’t think my childhood ever ended. Not really. Not where it counts. I think it’s more like watching how my childhood got started. Because the processes I developed back then are still the processes I use right now.
Continue reading “AN INFINITELY RECURSIVE CHILDHOOD”
As both a writer and teacher, I’ve been obsessed with the question of influence, both nonliterary and literary. It’s informed my scholarly work as well as my fiction and nonfiction, not to mention the kinds of courses I’ve designed, such as Forms of Fiction, Sudden Fiction, Short Story Cycle, Literature of the American Dream, Shakespeare, The American West in Film and Literature, and Family Systems in Film and Literature. A couple of years ago, I taught a special topics course for MFA students at Iowa State University entitled The Ecstasy of Influence, in which the students and I explored what we talk about when we talk about literary influence. It is one of my favorite courses—and one that helped me reshape the kinds of questions I now focus on for most of my other creative writing and literature courses. Continue reading “WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT INFLUENCE”
The outline is one of the most misunderstood parts of the creative process. For many writers, the very idea of outlining seems antithetical to creativity itself. However, this misperception overlooks the creative liberation that can come from outlining (and re-outlining) your project as it develops. I write novels that involve multiple characters with multiple interwoven storylines unfolding at different times and places because these are the kinds of stories that I like to read. But these narratives can easily fall to chaos, and so I rely heavily on outlining my work before, during, and after each draft. I outline everything that I write, long and short, complex and simple. Continue reading “EMBRACING THE OUTLINE: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Spreadsheet”
Right now I’m finishing up Seaside, a microbudget feature which I wrote, directed, and produced. I’m so eager and excited for people to see it. But the filmmaking process is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. Maybe it’s a little like what happens when you are waiting for a book to be published. Postproduction can be particularly challenging. The immediacy and control of pre-production and shooting are replaced with a much slower and less intense schedule. And sometimes it feels like nothing is happening. Argh! Continue reading “LIVING IN LIMBO: How to Stay Focused & Motivated on Large Projects”
Probably you’re too young to remember this—or were too sane at the time to care—but back in the early 90s, when R.E.M. were considered the best band in the world by more than a few people, back when they had just released Out of Time, both the band and their fans began expressing anxiety about the band returning to their roots—i.e., the people wanted R.E.M. to make an up-tempo album again, a rocking, electric album, and the band wanted to make the people happy. Let’s set aside the fact that R.E.M.’s first album, Murmur, while marginally more up-tempo than Out of Time and definitely more up-tempo than Automatic for the People, was in only the vaguest sense a rock record—R.E.M. gets very little credit for having started out as one of America’s finest early purveyors of pop-inflected post-punk obscurities—and concentrate instead on what happened when R.E.M. actually made the record the people seemed to want: Monster. Real talk: I hate Monster. Continue reading “R.E.M., Dinosaur Jr., Self-Actualization”