Questions for Writers


Kristen’s blog, Little Lodestar, is one of my regular reads.  Last week she asked as series of nine provocative questions that I have not been able to stop thinking about.  I wanted to share them here, along with my answers, and pose them to all of you at the same time.  I’m endlessly fascinated by and hungry for the details of the lives of writers, the sources of their inspiration, and the particular decisions they make on a given day.  I am impressed by Kristen’s deliberate effort to call herself a writer as that is something I struggle with myself.

This blog, and the online world I found through it, has brought me many surprises, but one of my most favorite has been how supportive the blogging community is.  My interest in Kristen’s questions and in your answers is just a further manifestation of that support and community. I found the comments on Kristen’s post engrossing and look forward to learning more here.  Another way this community works is that it was my friend Nina Badzin who originally gave me the idea to share these questions, and my answers, here.  She did the same yesterday and I hope you will click over and read her thoughts on the writing life and on Kristen’s questions.  Nina and Kristen are both writers for whom I have the utmost esteem and affection, and I am grateful every day to have met them in this online world.

Without further ado, I’m happy to share Kristen’s questions and ask any of you who are willing to answer them here in the comments (or on your blog!).

1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet? (I share with my husband something that I submit elsewhere only AFTER it’s been published, and I am pretty certain he does not read my blog 90% of the time.)

My husband reads my blog most of the time, though I think the attention that it receives varies depending on the day.  I show him my published pieces too, though don’t know that he’s really focused on most of them.

2. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback about it? (Comments from my family and friends, either online or in person, are overwhelmingly rare. I’m totally fine with that, but I am curious if this is the norm for others.)

Many of my family members and close friends do not read my blog, though some do.  Those who do rarely comment but when people do reach out to me it means a huge amount (enormous thanks to those of you who do this!) My feelings about this topic are complicated. Agree with Nina that it’s a lot to ask that people read.  On the other hand, I’m deeply grateful that some people read.

3. What do you do with the pieces that continually get rejected–post on your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let it go?

Sometimes I post on my blog.  Sometimes I just let them go.  The truth is I don’t submit a whole lot.

4. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?

The only specific place I really write for is my blog, so I don’t run into that much.  Or, if asked specifically (for someone else’s blog or for a magazine or something).  I have written a complete memoir and half of another one, both of which I let go of.  I wrote about that particular letting-go process a couple of years ago.  That was a big one.

5. What is your main source of reading-based inspiration (especially you essayists)? Blogs? Magazines? Journals? Anthologies? Book of essays by one writer?

Blogs, books, and poetry.  I read several blogs religiously, many more regularly, and I read fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.  I always have a book on my bedside table and read before bed almost every single night.  Actually I do read every single night, but now and then it’s a magazine instead of my book!

6. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?

That’s such a good question.  I would say I draw inspiration from both of those sources; what I see and experience as well as what I read.

7. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so underappreciated?

Another excellent question.  There are many bloggers writing today whose work I think is as good or better than what I read in more traditional channels; I think many are underappreciated.  I wish more people read poetry, because as a genre I think it’s wildly underappreciated.

8. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”?

Stephen King’s On Writing comes to mind.  I dip into Philip Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay from time to time.

I would sincerely love to hear any of your answers to any of these questions.  Thank you Kristen for the inspiration!


47 thoughts on “Questions for Writers”

  1. I’m so honored that Nina, and now you, have taken the time and space to answer these questions that I so often wonder about. I really respect and adore each of you and your writing. Based on this and several comments I’ve received, it seems that a copy of SK’s book is going to be in order, and I’m intrigued by Lopate’s book too, so thank you for that lead. In asking these questions I realized after the fact that did not fully answer them myself, except for the “do your spouses read?” questions. Mine tried to keep up for a while, but just doesn’t have/make the time anymore (and I’m more than 4 years in with blogging). Honestly? It bothers me a bit because so much of it is about our daughter…but then I feel mixed about my reaction because it’s not like he was reading my court briefs, you know? I really straddle that line a lot, and I think some of it comes from wanting to feel legitimate by folks in the non-writing world (not just my husband, but also a few others IRL). Ah…rambling as always. Thanks for your insight, Lindsey. I always appreciate it, as I hope you know by now. And for what it’s worth, about a year ago I started adding poetry to my reading diet and a large part of that was because of you. xo

  2. So happy to see this today! So, I have complicated feelings about who reads the blog and doesn’t. And like you I have no expectations and am just thrilled and often surprised to hear someone read something in particular and wanted to share their thoughts with me. That part is so fun. We write to share and communicate and it’s nice to know that sometimes it works. I LOVE the blogging community, too. Especially you and Kristen. Let’s watch her meme fly. 🙂

  3. Like I said to Nina yesterday, I love reading these things and learning about other writers. I also have mixed feelings about my friends and family (outside of the blogging world) reading my writing. I love when they comment to me about it, but it sometimes freaks me out a little that they are actually reading which, in turn, sometimes influences my writing.
    Thanks for sharing this part of your writing world with us, Lindsey!

  4. 1) I was happy to find out a lot of writers’ spouses do not read their blog. My husband never does. I occasionally read him a blog I am working on or one I have received good feedback on. I do steal some of his funny lines or stories, so I used to read those to him but he always sees or hears it differently so I gave up on that.

    2) A lot of my friends and family read my blog but I think it’s because they are curious to see how I am doing. My husband and I sold our house in NH two years ago and moved to Florida and found new jobs with much less stress. I think my friends read vicariously, as in can I do this? Will she succeed as a writer? When I walked for 365 days and blogged about it I got a lot of feedback from friends. They felt like they were walking with me.

    3 & 4) I don’t submit many pieces. I mainly write for HuffPost, my blog and my novels.

    5) James Salter has been the most influential writer I have ever read. I had the honor of meeting him this summer at the Southampton Writer’s Workshop. His sentences sing to me.

    6) What inspires me are the places I go, overheard conversations, daily life. I am more of a story teller than an introspective writer. I try to find stories that we all can relate to. My first book was about a woman needing to escape her cubicle so I can find a story in the most mundane places.

    7) See answer #5 – James Salter

    8) Stephen King’s On Writing and some of Jeff Goin’s blogs on better writing. His 5 Words You Shouldn’t Use in Your Writing is invaluable.

  5. I constantly wonder about other writers, their processes, and their thoughts, especially writers whom I respect. You are a writer. 🙂

    After reading the answers, I’m realizing I need to try to expand my readership beyond real life friends and family. I have been hurt that certain family members or friends don’t read my writing, but clearly that seems to be the norm. I need to shift my expectations. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your answers. 🙂

  6. I loved reading your answers, Lindsey. And I agree, who reads my blog (and other writing) brings about very complicated feelings. I think I’ll use Kristen’s questions on my blog next week, too. And try to get the word out to other writers to answer… it’s just so fascinating to read the processes and thoughts of other writers! Thank you for sharing. Off to read Nina’s now!

  7. Great questions, and I loved seeing your answers to them. A craft book you might like: Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets. The best essayists are poets in disguise (I think, anyway).

  8. I love your answers Lindsey! But you simply must, must call yourself a writer, because all of your readers certainly do (well, I can only speak for myself of course, but I think many would agree).

    I also really enjoyed Stephen King’s On Writing, actually I was surprised by how much I liked it. There were moments here and there where I thought, well, clearly this man can do so much because he has a WIFE, but that said, he offers clear, practical and inspiring advice. (small plug, feel free to ignore, but seems appropriate to mention that I’m giving away a free copy of this book on my blog to one of my email subscribers).

    One of the things I love most about posts like these, and the bloggers who started them (Kristen! Nina!) is how many MORE writers I discover this way. I’m so looking forward to perusing the many people I’ve found in comments so far, and more to come.

  9. Love your and Nina’s answers! I’m linking to mine:

    Thanks for the inspiration! Your post about letting go of your memoir was very touching. I’ve been writing something that feels like a memoir, but I’m thinking of trying to turn it into a column. But knowing how well you write, and how much you know about the process already, I am both in awe of and inspired by your ability to let it go after all that work. It gives me hope that no matter what happens in the future, I might find some peace after this writing process. Thanks as always for sharing your words in this space. I for one am glad you decided to be a blogger.

  10. I love these questions; they’re so different from the usual writing life questions yet grasp at a different kind of intimacy from what we’re used to seeing. I’ll probably answer them on my blog in the next few days, too 😉

    Also, Lindsey, I love, love, love On Writing, and always recommend not only reading it but listening to it (King narrates it himself). It’s like driving around with a master writing professor in the passenger’s seat. And I agree that more people should read poetry. Each time I do, I feel parts of my faith in humanity restored.

  11. I love this post by Kristen that is taking on a life of its own. I’m going to try to get my answers posted tomorrow. #2 – my feelings are complicated too. I think that’s part of why this community is so supportive. Many of us aren’t immersed in a large network of writers in our everyday lives, so the online connections become genuine and essential.

  12. I loved reading your thoughtful answers to these questions, Lindsey. I agree that there is a lot of wonderful and under appreciated writing in the blogosphere.

    Like you and Nina, my friends and family rarely read my blog, but that’s okay with me. I understand that it’s a lot to ask and I’m grateful on those occasions when they do comment.

  13. I agree entirely. This community means a lot to me, and I’m constantly impressed by how genuinely supportive and thoughtful people are. I can’t wait to read your answers. xox

  14. I can’t wait to read your answers. Love that King reads On Writing himself – I actually have a view that authors should read their own audiobooks, no matter what!

  15. Thank you, Dana! I am so glad you’re giving away a copy – glad you mentioned, ad am clicking over right now! (and agree, these posts can be like trails of breadcrumbs leading me to more wonderful bloggers!).

  16. I agree entirely – fascinating, and so glad that others are answering the questions. I can’t wait to read yours!

  17. Thank you for saying that. I’m still struggling with it, as I said 🙂

    It’s hard to shift the expectations. Something I’m still working on too. xox

  18. James Salter is such a brilliant writer. I love that you met him! I don’t know Jeff Goins but am going to check him out now.

  19. I hear you on the IRL/blog intersection. I want people to read and then I’m also sometimes taken aback/freaked out when they mention something. Sigh. xox

  20. I’m so happy to know that I had some small part in your reading more poetry. That makes me happier than you can imagine. xo

  21. Lindsey, I discovered your blog only recently, and I can’t wait until life slows enough for me to sit quietly and explore it even further. I just bought On Writing for my son for Christmas. I love that book, and think it will be the inspiration he needs to hone his passion. Thank you for your beautiful writing.

  22. I haven’t read poetry in a long time. What are some poets or books of poems you’d recommend?

    Like Shannon and you discussed higher up in the comments there, I also get somewhat freaked out when someone I meet IRL mentions that they read my blog. It’s funny, because ostensibly, it’s good to have more readers! But in these encounters I tend to go shy and become very self-conscious. I should figure out a strategy to avoid feeling so awkward!

  23. I would definitely recommend Mary Oliver. There’s a selected poems book that has many of her pieces – approachable, powerful, beautiful. Highly recommend!

  24. I’m loving reading these answers. So curious about the process of other writers. Look forward to reading your post about letting go of your memoir.

    You’re making me want to read more poetry. You talk about it often and post such beautiful quotes. I’ll try the Mary Oliver collection. Also, I haven’t read the book by Philip Lopate. Will have to look that up. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Lindsey,
    So great to get a glimpse into your process. Your writing has been an inspiration to me and so many and I loved reading about what inspires you. I’m excited to check out Jeff Goin’s blog and Stephen King’s book. Thank you for those recommendations! And as far as friends and family go, for me, I find that many of the people close to me do read my blog, but for some reason, they do not like to comment, especially on my blog. Sometimes they will comment on Facebook, or even in person (which is great), but almost never directly on my blog. This used to bother me, but now I am just grateful that they are reading my stuff. And I often run my posts past my husband before I publish them, and he has been a great editor. But I must say that our friend Nina has provided me with the most consistent and sound advice about my blog and my writing. What would we do without that girl ;)?! Happy, healthy New Year, Lindsey! Good things in 2015! xo

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