Why is writing important to you and why do you think it's an important medium for the world? Writing is important to me because I cannot *not* do it. It’s kind of like breathing. It engages your imagination and sense of possibility, allows you to explore other places and other people’s points of view--and then to connect with them and, ideally, start a real conversation.
What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer's block? Number one is a walk in the park with my dog. I live right next to Lake Michigan, which has its own personality and a different mood every day. Number two is filing, cleaning, organizing, washing dishes… anything you might call drudgery category. I used to think that was procrastinating until a very smart cognitive behavioral therapist taught me to think of putting physical things in order as a ritual that somehow kicked my subconscious into gear organizing my thoughts.
What is your favorite time to write? I am terrible at picking anything as my “favorite,” so if I say something is my favorite it’s probably a fib. With that caveat, I generally set aside time to write in the mornings, when I am at my peak. The best time for me is not necessarily a particular time of day but when I am in the writing “zone,” which strikes when it wants to though I do my best to encourage it. Getting to that zone often means creating as much unscheduled time as possible. Some days it will feel like I am not getting anywhere even though my unconscious is hard at work.
What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received and would like to impart to other writers? When I taught writing at Columbia, one of the required texts was William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, and my favorite line of advice in it was: “Remember this in moments of despair: If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it’s hard.” There’s so much good advice there. I also often recommend Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction, David Lodge’s The Practice of Writing, and anything and everything by Anne Janzer. Plus of course Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.
What excites you most about being a writer in today's age? Some people say that the written word is becoming obsolete in a world of podcasts, TikTok videos, and other media. But all of those start with writing. I love seeing how ideas change the way people think and act. When I mentor writers, I always ask the same question that I ask myself: Whom do you want to see do what differently because of what you write? And what’s the most effective way to write in order to make that happen? That’s why I get so excited when complete strangers email me or come up to me after events to say that what I’ve written has helped them in their lives, their businesses, or communities. They immediately stop seeming like strangers when that happens. It’s like my books have leaked outside of their covers and become part of my readers’ DNA.
Michele Wucker's You Are What You Risk: The New Art and Science of Navigating an Uncertain World is out now with Pegasus Books.