#116 Amy Alkon
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."
"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."
"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