author Larry O. Dean singing and playing guitar and an image of his book Muse, Um

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it's an important medium for the world? I wear various 'hats' -- educator, songwriter, journalist, poet -- and the one element that unites them all is writing. Through that, I am able to reach out and speak as an individual (sometimes through other personas), as well as investigate, contemplate, and examine the lives of others. The act of writing can help us empathize better, criticize constructively, and hone our perceptions of an often confounding and irrational world. I believe that all forms of humor are powerful adversaries against mediocrity, disinformation, and hopelessness, and I strive to incorporate humor as much as possible in my writing methodologically as well as philosophically.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer's block? 'Writer's block' is a demonized and cliched term. We all experience moments when we're frustrated because the words won't come; this is an inevitable part of the writer's vocation. Some function better carving out rigorous schedules and setting daily word or page minimums, while others can seemingly write anywhere and everywhere when inspiration 'strikes.' I think it's more productive to elevate boredom, celebrating those fleeting moments when we allow our brains to wander, rather than cracking the authorial whip in an effort to increase productivity. Don't worry if you don't meet what are probably unreal expectations; instead, allow yourself to be as open and accessible as the situation permits, knowing that no words or ideas are ever truly 'lost,' but rather percolating constantly in the background of our brains, ready to be poured out when the rhythms of the moment align.

What is your favorite time to write? I don't have one; or rather, what delineates a "favorite time" is being able to express something satisfactorily, digging into the writing process with abandon, so it's an achievement rather than 'morning' or 'night.' Sometimes we favor one over the other because of outside factors (jobs, family, peripheral concerns) which can change unexpectedly. Sometimes I crave the incidental inspirations that riding on public transit or walking down the street bring; other times I find the lower-key and quieter late night more conducive to the moment.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received and would like to impart to other writers? Roger Ebert said, “It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it.” Switch out "movie" for "poem," "story," "novel."

What excites you most about being a writer in today's age? Nothing is ever more vindicating than receiving an acceptance. Everyone won't love or even like your work, but the tacit endorsement that comes with every offer to publish you adds to your armor and builds you up in ways that are ineffable.

Larry O. Dean's Muse, Um is out now with Finishing Line Press.