Anatomy of an Uncustomary Writer
What’s the oddest thing you own?
I wish I had a shrunken head or something, but I’m not that exciting. I’ve always been a huge Ghostbusters fan since I was a kid though, and there’s one toy I’ve kept somewhere in storage that always struck me as strange. It’s basically a convertible Volkswagen Beetle that transforms into a robotic praying mantis. It doesn’t really transform though as much as it just springs from the bottom, so the end result is a giant praying mantis that looks like it’s fused to a car. I never knew what that had to do with Ghostbusters or ghosts in general, but kids will play with anything I guess.
Any writing rituals?
I don’t know if I’d consider it a ritual, but my pre-writing process goes something like this:
Step 1) Complain to anyone who will listen that I have no idea what to write.
Step 2) Pace for 20 minutes (I have to open the fridge every time I pass it, no exceptions).
Step 3) Look in the mirror and estimate how long I can go without shaving. Then I sit back down. If I still don’t know what to write about at this point, the cycle repeats. This is a surprisingly consistent ritual.
What substance (prescribed, illegal or from the freezer section) most inspires your writing?
I used to think that Ernest Hemingway had it right with, “Write drunk; edit sober”. Then I grew up and realized that drinking just makes me tired. I still wouldn’t say no to a tall glass of stout when my laptop is out though. Otherwise, what I really need is to just stay away from any food when I write. I’m a human garbage disposal, and there’s nothing that kills inspiration like eating my way through a kitchen cupboard for 45 minutes.
What’s the biggest advantage of your greatest disadvantage?
I’m going to go the physical route with this question and say that my knees are my greatest disadvantage. They like to force me to walk with a cane sometimes. However, I have a pretty sweet cane, and I think I can look quite distinguished for a twenty-something male with an almost-beard. Looking distinguished is important for a writer. It helps others identify us in coffee shops from the people who are just on their laptops for Tumblr, as opposed to us who are writing AND going on Tumblr. Plus, people always give up seats for you in public when you have a cane. That’s a borderline super power right there.
Which language do you wish you could speak to ask what question to whom?
I wish I could speak either Dothraki or High Valyrian so that I could ask the Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen to marry me, obviously. If you don’t understand any of that, then we probably wouldn’t have much to talk about if we met.
Describe your relationship with inspiration.
I apologize for any crudeness, but the best comparison I can think of for the nature of my relationship with inspiration is an uncooperative bowel movement. It generally strikes when I really don’t want it to, like when I’m in class or on a train. When I do want it, I’ll probably waste a few hours with nothing to show for it. Them’s the breaks, I suppose.
The formula for the perfect day is:
Being busy. Really, super busy. Like I mentioned above, I usually get inspiration when it’s least convenient, so the more I need to get done on a given day, the better the odds that I’ll have a lot more to say. The trick is balancing what I actually have to do, while still squeezing in some writing. Rain and snow help, too. If I’m stuck inside, it at least limits my distractions to whatever is in the house with me.
Anatomy of the Book
Do you prefer…
…chapter titles or chapter numbers? A good chapter title can be enticing. I like the clever ones that I don’t understand until the end, mostly because I like to go, “Ohhh, so that’s why the chapter is called ‘Medicinal Fire Cats’. Genius!” I’m also not opposed to the occasional crude doodle.
…short stories, a series, or a collection of poems? Definitely a series. When I really find a good one though, I probably won’t see my friends again until I’ve gotten through all of it. I may forget to eat, too.
…footnotes, maps or indices? Footnotes, but after struggling through the brilliantly written House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (which has footnotes in its footnotes), the idea sounds too exhausting for me to consider again for a while.
…hardcover, softcover or digital cover? Softcover. That way, the more I love a book, the more worn it generally gets from the wear and tear of repeated readings. There’s something romantic about that, I think. However, the Kindle I received as a gift makes buying digital books way too easy. Plus, the book sales it has are ridiculously cheap sometimes, so my collection of digital has grown faster than I imagined it would. I think this also has something to do with me frequently forgetting that libraries still exist. I have no good excuse for that.
Anatomy of the Reading List
What does your reading list look like? Is it a pile of books, a list of titles or a mental medley of thoughts?
I recently stopped making lists. When I want to find a new book now, I just check to see if I made any Kindle purchases in my sleep; the odds are good that I did. I then pick the one that I least remember buying and read that. This is precisely why I should not have access to anything called “One-Click-Checkout”.
Which book do you feel obligated to read next?
The Great Gatsby. I somehow made it through all of high school and college without reading it and I’m a little ashamed of myself. It just seems like one that everyone needs to read. Know what I mean, old sport?
Which do you actually wish you were reading right now?
George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter, the 6th (out of the planned 7) not-quite-written-yet book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series, or Game of Thrones for my fellow TV fans. I hate being another whiny fan who complains about his books never coming out, but I’m still pretty sure The Winds of Winter is never coming out.
Uncustomary Book Reviews Written by Jared Dee: Here’s the list.