#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