Creative Careerists is a new, ongoing series on Creative Juicer that features short interviews with successful creatives to learn about their creative process and how they reached their success, whether in art or career.
Do you know an inspiring creative? Nominate someone for an interview by emailing emily [dot] wenstrom [at] gmail [dot] com.
Meet the Creative:
Suzanne Gochenouer writes and reads before doing any housework. She freely admits an addiction to words, reading an average of 500 books each year. Co-author of The Gratitude Book Project: Celebrating 365 Days of Gratitude, 2012 Edition, Suzanne writes articles and novels, edits and coaches writers, while blogging about writing and editing at www.TransformationalEditor.com, and about energy work at www.PeacemakersPath.com.
What does an average day look like for you in your creative career?
Now I’m going to embarrass myself, because my average day does not look like at all as you imagine.
Not exactly dawn: Wake an hour later than I should because I wrote ‘til almost 0200 hrs, then sleep through another hour of raucous arguing from the radio hosts who serve as my alarm. (I chose that station because their bickering is so irritating I figured it would force me out of bed. Lately I’ve developed a talent for sleeping through it.) Jot down flashes I remember from strange dreams. There’s a story in there somewhere. Start thinking about what I’ll write today. Need something for my blogs, or for WIP.
Morning: Check emails to see if I need to add or subtract tasks from my schedule today. Breakfast while reading a novel, or something inspirational. Feeding the body while I feed the creative machine. Start a load of laundry, and promptly forget it.
Late morning: Sometimes a Reiki client or a coaching call. If not, I’m puttering with something around the house or on the computer, still thinking about what I’ll write that day. Idea for blog post is fermenting in my brain, bubbling to the surface and sinking again.
Later than 1300 hrs: Got distracted and forgot to stop to eat again. Read while eating faster than I should.
Mid-afternoon: Sometimes a Reiki client or coaching call. If not, I’m finally getting another coat of paint or glaze on three or four of the kitchen cabinet doors–part of my interminable kitchen renovation. Getting a clearer picture of what I want to write by the time I clean up the painting tools.
Late afternoon: Sit down at the computer and start writing.
Early evening: Forget to turn on the evening news until it’s almost over. Stop to watch the tail end hoping to catch the weather. Decide to eat supper. Grab whatever can be nuked in one bowl, then eat too fast in front of the television.
Late evening: Get back to writing, editing, rewriting.
If working on a blog post, copy it to website, re-edit, spend half an hour trying to find pictures because people tell me I need pictures to keep the readers’ interest. (Are they readers or art lovers? That is the question.) Spend another half hour trying to make the pictures load into the post where I want them to appear, and not where they decide to show up. Finish details and schedule. If it’s a post for the next day, the clock has probably already rolled over to tomorrow at the server’s location. Decide to publish immediately. Force myself to tidy up folder, throwing away six or seven versions between original post and final revision. Log hours worked and word count achieved in writing log. Log posts by which blog they are part of (I have two, and maintain and post on a third), and when posted.
If I’m working on a story or novel, just keep writing until my hands keep resting on too many keys on the keyboard sending my cursor willy-nilly into the text I’ve already written, wiping out whole sentences before I figure out what’s going on. Force myself to file different versions in WIP’s folder. Log hours worked and word count achieved in writing log.
Look at clock–0148 hrs. Groan because I have an early appointment next (this) morning. Read for fifteen minutes. Get dressed for bed and remember wet clothes waiting in washer. Trudge back out to laundry room and throw them in the dryer. Remind myself that if I haven’t seen that red tee in a week, the load is probably still in the dryer. Go to bed.
How did you get to where you are now in your career? What key moments, decisions or circumstances brought you here?
I’ve always written. I’ve always read. I always knew I was a writer (even when that knowledge was only subconscious). Every year I worked on something, most of which was unfinished and thrown away. About fifteen years ago, I started entering a contest here and there. I got some nice comments on my writing, but that’s about as far as it went.
When I hit my head, suffered over a decade of migraines, and took early retirement from engineering with an aerospace company, I began writing more. Before I knew it, my subconscious mind told my conscious mind it was time to step up to the plate. “If you’re going to write, plant your seat in a chair and get started. You’re not getting any younger, you know.” So I started writing, continued reading and educating myself (a daily practice). And now I’m published. Co-author of one book with next year’s edition in the works, several magazine articles for groups I support, finalist in the 2011 Stella Cameron Scarlet Boa contest, writing for my blogs, editing books and stories, coaching writers … the possibilities for what I’ll be doing next are limitless.
What excites you most about your work?
Touching my readers intellectually and viscerally. I love when I hear that they laughed so hard they spewed their soft drink across the table, he got shivers down his spine, she was moved to tears, or they were inspired to take action because of something I wrote. Even if the reader just loses all sense of time and place for as long as it takes to read my story … that excites and motivates me to wrote more, inspire more and share more.
What is its greatest challenge for you?
Every day I wonder if I will find any words when it’s time to start writing. I struggle with self-esteem about my writing skills. I forcibly carve out time to write, sometimes for months at a time. I have to work at writing.
How do you get your best ideas?
They rain down on me from the cosmos–I wish. Some of my best ideas have come from snippets of dreams that are still with me when I wake up. I hear a song, or a news story and the first line or paragraph of a story pops into my head. I have an irreverent take on life, I suppose, but many things strike me as imminently suitable for exploiting. Nothing is too trivial or important that the writer cannot find something to say about it. For example, the other day I watched the news story about the bear falling out of a tree after being hit with a tranquilizer dart. As an editor, one of my pet peeves is writers using the wrong spelling of words with multiple spellings and meanings. So my mind immediately starts in with, “the bare what fell out of the tree?” Where that’s going to lead, I don’t know. There are at least a good dozen stories waiting in that one phrase.
Really, I do create a deliberate intention to attract the words I need every day for my stories and posts, give my subconscious a little time to wake up my conscious mind, then I start typing.
What do you do when you get stuck?
I write something silly. One day I’ll post my short story on why it’s the quick brown fox … instead of the slow red fox. By the time I finish my silliness, I can go work on my WIP and the words will be there. If I write myself into a corner, I may go with that for a while. Sometimes, by playing with how you walked into that corner, you find you’ve plotted a better scene.
How do you make sure you make time for creativity in your life?
I’m blessed in that I’m “retired” from working for someone else. Meaning, I choose how my time is spent. Most of it, anyway. The flip side of that coin is that I’m also responsible for everything about maintaining my home, any income, etc. There are times I’m so sidetracked from writing, I feel like giving up.
When that happens, I start from scratch. I never employed a calendar or datebook previously, but this year I’ve found I need to plan when to work on each WIP, in order to meet more deadlines.
What advice do you have for other aspiring creatives who want to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t think about all the writers that you’re positive are better than you will ever be. Focus on your own writing. Take responsibility for educating yourself to become the best writer YOU can be. If you can’t take classes or workshops, there are thousands of books available, from which you can learn any aspect of writing. Read the reviews, and find those books that most writers swear by. Read the dictionary–really. Join a writers group, either locally or online. Find one that’s a nice mix of experienced and new writers. Listen! Absorb advice and ideas and tailor them to your needs. Find a critique partner, someone who’s strong in the areas where you’re weak. Find someone outside your family and friends to edit your work. (Even editors need editing.) Accept critiques graciously, without arguing or explaining. If an experienced writer gives their time to help you grow as a writer, don’t blow off their advice. Thank people who help you in any way. Set detailed writing goals with specific dates on which they will be accomplished, and be accountable to them. If you don’t think you can be accountable to yourself, confide your goals to someone who will hold your feet to the fire.
Have fun! You have a gift–and we’re all waiting for you to share with us.
Most important, write something–it doesn’t matter what–every single day.