Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.
Today I’m delighted to welcome Nichole Bernier to Writerhead. She’s the author of the new novel The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D (you know, the one that’s getting all that wonderful buzz right now).
Having Nichole here is pretty special. I’ve “known” her virtually for years; we met on Twitter while I was still living in China. And I’ve been looking forward to sharing her book and her talent ever since learning that her novel was going to be published.
So please rise and give a big round of applause for Nichole. Then lean in close, listen up, and hear what she’s got to say about her writerhead. (And then, yep, go buy her book!)
1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).
For me the writerly mindset is the need to take a brace of thoughts and translate them into words, give them the structure of words. It happens anywhere, usually when I’m watching other people, and am tremendously moved to be witnessing a moment—some isolated episode of human connection or more often, human passing-in-the-night. But it doesn’t become a thing until I put it into words. That’s the way thoughts and ideas become real to me. It’s trying to force steam back into water.
2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)
When I began writing my novel I had three children, and had never written fiction before. So I expect to be interrupted. It’s fantastic when I’m in an environment where I can open things up for hours, but that’s not the norm. What’s critical then is the way I lay breadcrumbs to find my way back, whenever that will be. If I’m in the middle of writing, I’ll scribble a fragmented sentence with bits of emotion or action or adjectives or dialogue. If I’m at an appointment it might be a scribble on the backside of paper, or if it’s in the middle of the night, there’s a pad in the nightstand drawer. On the soccer sidelines I’m known for taking a lot of pictures with my cellphone; it’s because I’ve become really good at holding it up for mock-shots and texting myself notes.
3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.
There was once a tv show or movie—something slapstick—where the main character would find himself temporarily in the middle of frozen time, though he was still free to move about the cabin. Everyone and everything was stock-still while he tiptoed around doing whatever he liked, taking sodas out of people’s hands, knocking the baseball caps off their heads, etc. For me it feels like that.
BIO: Nichole Bernier is author of the novel The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D, and has written for magazines including Elle, Self, Health, and Men’s Journal. A Contributing Editor for Conde Nast Traveler for 14 years, she was previously on staff as the magazine’s golf and ski editor, columnist, and television spokesperson. She received her master’s degree from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, and is one of the founders of the literary blog Beyond the Margins. Nichole lives west of Boston with her husband and five children. She can be found through her website and on Twitter (@nicholebernier).