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.
Now ssshhhh, don’t y’all start raising a ruckus just because Dinty Moore (yes, THE Dinty Moore!!!) is here at Writerhead. Yes, it’s true, he’s…
- a terrific writer
- the grand guru of all things nonfiction
- the editor one of the best online literary magazines around (Brevity)
- the editor of the newly released The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction
- the author of more books & essays that I could ever list
- a humble spirit who recognizes the worth of manual labor for writers
- and from all accounts, a spectacular and generous teacher
But despite all that, you still can’t venture into Dinty’s writerhead whooping and hollering like a gaggle of writers and readers gone wild (see Dinty’s answer to question #2 below). This kind of hallowed ground deserves a little respect and consideration.
So if you’re ready to show a little of each, we’ll proceed.
As Dinty says, “Breathe deeply, friends.”
1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).
Writerhead is when the writing is talking back to me and I have to listen. I have to listen even more than I have to listen to my wife Renita when she asks if I want cereal or yogurt for breakfast and whether I want it now or want it left for me on the kitchen counter. (Yeah, I know, I’m lucky that way.) Back when I primarily wrote fiction, it was the characters talking back to me, suggesting what might happen next, or what they might say. Those were golden moments. Now that I’m primarily always in nonfiction mode, it is the ideas talking back to me, suggesting ramifications or reversals, and sometimes it feels like it is me talking back to me, the crotchety old man in one corner of my brain (me) arguing with the optimist (also me) in another corner and both shushing me (also me) up so I can hear what they have to say, because in their view (which is also my view) what they have to say is more important than anything I was going to come up with on my own.
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.)
I ignore phone calls, dog barks, lightning storms, and all lesser stimuli, but someone in my office doorway asking me a direct question is hard to overlook. The first thing that happens is that I wave my arms in front of my face as if I had been attacked by gnats. I am startled, surprised to find a keyboard and a computer screen in front of me, and flabbergasted at the sound of an actual voice, instead of those voices emanating from the musty back alleys of my inner consciousness. And then I either splutter, “Wait, wait, one minute until I get this down,” or I look so startled that my spouse backs off and calls her best friend and gossips about what a freak I am. (Actually, that’s a lie. She has great regard for the artistic process.) When my daughter was little and I would stagger out of my office mid-morning looking like I had been on an all-night whiskey binge, my wife would calmly explain that, “Daddy is in story land. He’ll be okay after he showers.”
3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.
Writerhead is like an endorphin high from exercise, without the aching leg muscles, or a marijuana high, without the paranoia, guilt, shame, and dirty ashtrays. Writerhead is like getting up out of your chair, crawling into your own ear, and wandering around inside of your own brain for two or twenty minutes, and the whole time you are also sitting in that chair, typing notes on what you’ve found.
BIO: Dinty W. Moore is author of numerous books, including The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life, Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction, and the memoir Between Panic & Desire, winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize. He recently edited THE ROSE METAL PRESS FIELD GUIDE TO WRITING FLASH NONFICTION: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers.
Having failed as a zookeeper, modern dancer, Greenwich Village waiter, filmmaker, and wire service journalist, he now writes essays and stories. He has been published in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, Gettysburg Review, Utne Reader, and Crazyhorse, among numerous other venues.
Dinty lives in Athens, Ohio, the funkadelicious, hillbilly-hippie Appalachian epicenter of the locally-grown, locally-consumed, goats-are-for-cheese, paw-paws-are-for-eatin’, artisanal-salsa, our-farmers-market-rocks-the-hills sub-culture, where he grows his own heirloom tomatoes and edible dandelions, and teaches a crop of brilliant undergraduate and stunningly talented graduate students as director of Ohio University’s BA, MA, and PhD in Creative Writing program.
CONNECT: To find out more about Dinty, visit his website. He is also the editor of one of my favorite online literary magazines, Brevity, “a small magazine with large ambitions.” You can also give him a high-five on Twitter (@brevitymag).