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#116 Amy Alkon

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The Courage to Call Yourself a Writer

I saw Amy Alkon speak at the LA Times Festival of Books and was delighted with her talk on her book, Unf*ckology, which breaks down the science of building up courage. Here, I thought, was a person who can address this fear so many people have of calling themselves writers. 

I was right in guessing she'd have a lot to say on the topic, but we went so much further into how to trick your brain into being brave, what routines help jump-start Amy's writing day (one of my favorite writing routines EVER). Plus Amy is very funny.  I adored her and this conversation, and I know you will too. Happy listening!

Discussed in Episode 116 with Amy Alkon:

  • "Well you're a writer if you write."
    You are what you do, whether you get paid for it or not.

  • Van Gogh wasn't not a painter because he didn't get paid for his paintings during his lifetime."
    On not defining yourself based on your income source.

  • "I don't let my feelings be the boss of me."
    Write now, edit later.

  • Use a timer. She writes for 52 min & takes a 17 min break. She doesn't pause during the 52 minutes. Keeps her phone in airplane mode.

  • Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

  • "Embodied Cognition" - the mind is bigger than just the brain.

  • When she is having trouble writing, she will take a walk to the ATM - nominally to get some cash - but to move her body and let her brain background process her work, while accomplishing a task - getting the cash.

  • "Chronotypes" - Identify what time of day is the best time for you to get work done.

  • "Larks" work best in the morning.

  • "Midday types" work best in the middle of the day.

  • "Owls" work best at night.

  • Makes microwave bacon in the morning to help her get up at 5am to write.

  • "The grease is the point."
    Re: bacon and having a ritual to get yourself writing in the morning.

  • "Invest in yourself in ways that matter."
    Creating your best writing environment.

  • X and Why, Tom Whipple

  • "I'm on my fifth book and I'm still figuring things out."

  • Writing as a lifetime pursuit.

  • "It's a hate site with books."
    On Goodreads.

  • "Sometimes you just do stuff and it doesn't work."
    On rewriting and the discipline of getting it right.

  • Has a reader/editor to read everything she writes professionally.

  • "Do not have your mother read your work."
    You don't want kid gloves if you really want to write well.

  • "We're all bad writers at times."
    Writing well is hard work.

  • Emotions are motivational tools.

  • "You find people in business who you really think are wise and then you trust them."
    On assembling a team to shepherd your book to publication.

  • Eat your frogs first.

  • Don't keep your problems secret from your editor.

  • "The science tells me what the book is."
    How her research shapes her books.

  • Distance from your work is essential.

  • "Fuck makes books sell."
    On titles.

  • "We all come up with bad ideas."
    Publishing as a collaborative act.

  • The Sellout, Paul Beatty

  • "None of us are geniuses."
    Writing books is hard. No one is automatically good at it.

This episode sponsored by listeners like you via the Secret Library Podcast Patreon