BECAUSE I love reading, writing, and listening to all topics inspirational, I thought it would be fun to know more about K.M. Weiland, author, editor, and writing consultant. Ms. Weiland writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and has recently released a CD titled Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration. I am pleased to interview her here today.
AS: Tell us a little about yourself and your new CD.
K.M: Over the last several years, I’ve been sharing tips and essays about the writing life on my blog Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors. Articles on inspiration and fighting writer’s block have always been some of my most popular posts, and I wanted to put together a presentation that shared some of my own tricks for encouraging inspiration. Thanks to the Wordplay podcast, I already had some experience with audio productions and thought it would be an interesting adventure to create a CD that would be accessible and helpful to others.
AS: You mention on your CD that you’ve been writing stories since you were twelve years old. Who was your greatest influence and cheerleader — the person who most encouraged you to follow your heart as a writer?
K.M: I don’t come from a family of fiction readers, and for the most part my family still doesn’t “get” the whole novelist thing. But I was very blessed to have parents who supported my dreams and my gifts even when they didn’t necessarily understand them. When I was thirteen or fourteen, my father—recognizing that my writing was a passion that would likely fuel the rest of my life—sought out the services of a talented author friend to mentor me during those early years. That was a decided turning point for me. My writing went from a fun hobby to one of the most serious pursuits of my life.
AS: How old were you when you first decided to commit yourself to writing as a career, and what steps did you take to accomplish this goal (recognizing that we writers are always in process)?
K.M: I actually came to writing as a career through the back door. For years, I wrote for myself, and I was content with that. My childhood dream was to train horses and compete as a professional barrel racer in rodeos. It wasn’t until my late teens, roundabout the time I graduated from high school, that the encouragement of others led me to pursue publication for my western novel A Man Called Outlaw. Even then, it took me two years and another book (the medieval epic Behold the Dawn) to realize all that a career as a professional author entailed. In the year prior to Behold’s publication, I finally made myself get serious about the marketing end of the business. I joined every social media network in site (most notably Facebook and Twitter), started polishing my blog, and seeking creative ways to catch and hold potential readers’ attention. It’s been a long, difficult journey, but also exhilarating and fulfilling.
AS: What inspired you to create your CD, and why a CD instead of an E-book?
K.M: I wanted to offer something relatively inexpensive but with more substance than an e-book (although, for those who prefer digital media, the album is available as an Mp3 download from Amazon). Plus, I always enjoy dipping my toes in new water, so I was eager to try my hand at a different medium. People have responded positively to my podcast, so I figured an audio production might not go amiss.
AS: To my way of thinking, writing is a process and it’s unrealistic to expect all our writing (or perhaps any of it) to be inspired. Either we sit down and write, or we don’t. Why do you think that so many people believe in “writer’s block?” And what might be some ways to “reframe” the conversation?
K.M: Writer’s block is an easy excuse. If we’re tired or cranky or our stories aren’t cascading off our fingertips the way we want them to, writer’s block is a convenient out. Obviously, if we have writer’s block, then no one can expect us to sit down at the computer and try to get some words down. I’m not mitigating the effects of blockage; every writer comes to a point (for me, it can be a daily occurrence) when he’s just plain stuck. But when we slap a moniker on it—especially one that carries the enormous baggage of “writer’s block”—all we’re doing is beating ourselves at a psychological game.
In my experience, writer’s block can be approached in only two ways, neither of which is improved by actually calling it writer’s block.
- Simply grit our teeth and keep typing away, even if all we’re producing is junk, until we break through the wall.
- Realize that our creative brain needs a break and walk away for a while, with the strict understanding that we will be back to hammer that keyboard again soon.
AS: I understand that you primarily write fiction, is that correct? Do your techniques work equally well with someone who writes nonfiction and/or memoir?
K.M: As a fiction author, my view of writing naturally leans toward my own experiences and perspective. The CD does contain references and exercises specific to fiction authors. However, the ideas and suggestions, in general, span the gamut of writing genres. The panic welling in the backs of our throats, the taunt of the blinking cursor and the blank page, the frustration when our words don’t sound the way we want them to—these feelings are universal to writers of every stripe. And the ideas I discuss for combating them should apply equally to all of us, no matter our chosen brand of wordcraft.
AS: Have you ever used a journal to help you with you write more productively or keep track of your writing process? If so, tell us a little about that.
K.M: I keep a writing journal for each novel I write. I use it to record my feelings about my story and my creativity in general (it’s very comforting to look back at old journals and realize that I fought and overcame the same obstacles previously) and to gather my ideas before diving into the actual fray of my stories. The one thing I don’t use my journals for is creative exercises and writing prompts. I’ve never had good luck with either, mostly because I feel my writing time could be better spent working on the writing projects that count: my novels, short stories, and blog posts.
AS: In the CD, you talk about the importance of daydreaming. If someone isn’t a natural daydreamer, how can he or she cultivate this skill?
K.M: If you’re a writer, chances are you know how to daydream. Cultivating the skill is really just a matter of learning how to be still, absorb the world around you, and communicate with yourself. I recommend lots of alone time for writers. Long walks are a favorite daydreaming activity for me, but I also utilize mental downtime when my hands are busy on mindless tasks (washing dishes, pulling weeds, scooping snow) that leave my imagination free to roam. Also, if you’re in a place where it’s possible, don’t be afraid to verbalize. Crazy people talk to themselves—but so do creative people! Verbalizing thoughts and trying out the weight of words in our mouths can solidify our dreams into memorable ideas.
AS: What is your favorite way to jump-start your own creativity?
K.M: I try to live in a zone where creativity is always accessible. I don’t want to let the creative well run dry; I don’t want to ever reach the place where I have to jump-start it. For me, inspiration isn’t so much about seeking, as it is about living. As the CD’s subtitle “nurture a lifestyle of creativity” suggests, I want to find creativity at my fingertips every moment of the day. In large part, living this kind of life is about being centered, at peace, and open to new experiences. For me, it also means surrounding myself with an atmosphere of beauty and order, as much as possible. Also, because creativity is a river that must flow in if it’s to flow out, I devour the creative output of other people: music, books, movies, art, you name it.
AS: How do you go about balancing instinct and intuition (art) with craft? Do you have recommendations to offer your readers and listeners?
K.M: I’m a decidedly left-brain person, so the craft part—the technical, structural side of writing—comes naturally. For me, the difficulty is keeping my perfectionist tendencies in check and allowing my rowdy, untamed right brain to take over, color outside the lines, and generally make a beautiful mess. Over the years, I’ve learned to listen to my gut. If my body is telling me something is wrong with a story, something’s probably wrong. And vice versa—when my chest “collapses” and I literally can’t breathe, I know I’ve hit upon something good. We’ve all heard it before, but it bears repeating: Give yourself permission to be awful in the first draft; don’t try to control your subconscious creativity. The left brain will get its chance in the later drafts.
AS: Is there anything you’d like to add?
K.M: Thanks for hosting me today, Amber! I would add that along with the CD (which is available, this month only, in a great special offer), I’m excited to announce the launch of my newly redesigned website. Other than the spiffy new look, it also features lots of goodies for helping writers along the road to publication and fulfillment in their writing.
Probably the most exciting additions are the Helping Writers Become Authors Network, which offers an excellent package deal on some of my best writing programs and products, and the First Chapter Story Consultation service.
AS: You’re welcome, and good luck with everything!