Interview with Jerry Waxler – Your Life as a Writer

Interviewer: What single piece of advice stands out as being most influential in your writing career?
Jerry: Hmm. Great question. Writing advice has influenced me throughout my journey to become a writer, it’s hard to identify the best. One piece that jumps to mind was offered by bestselling author Jonathan Maberry who told me I need to put more of myself in my writing. The reason that suggestion had such a far-reaching impact on me was that until then I always tried to hide. When I tried to follow his advice, I had to come out from behind the curtain and show myself to my readers. I credit this piece of advice with starting me on the road toward my interest in writing a memoir.

Interviewer: What advice would your current self offer to your previous self?
Jerry: Wow. You’re good. That question touches on the very essence of the Memoir Revolution. Memoirs celebrate the process of growing wiser, because by the end of every memoir, we’ve learned some things we wouldn’t have known at the beginning.

So if I was to look back, I would say to my younger self, “Every step you take toward the direction of your dreams adds up over time.”

Now that you’ve got me thinking about advice across time, I’m trying to imagine what advice my future self might give to my current self. I think it might be along the same lines. My future self would say to my present self, “Stay the course. You are doing great. Keep going.”

Interviewer: Your thoughts on writers groups or book clubs?
Jerry: I love writing groups. They transform writing from a solo to a social activity. As a writing teacher I have the privilege of participating in lots of writing classes, and I witness over and over how students are lifted by the experience of writing in the company of others.

I also am a big fan of critique groups. Whether online or in person, these groups offer an important source of feedback. When I first joined a critique group, my main goal was to get feedback for my own writing. After a while, I realized another benefit. By critiquing other writers, my own editing skills were getting faster and sharper.

Interviewer: How do you deal with rejection or a negative review?
Jerry: I hate rejection! It makes me feel small and worthless. To help me cope with those feelings, I studied self-help for years. Based on my research into the emotional challenges of being a writer, I wrote my other book, How to Become a Heroic Writer [link: http://amzn.to/1utWkpO ] In it, I describe self-soothing and confidence-boosting techniques to help writers reduce their fear of judgmental readers, and instead to reach out lovingly toward an admiring audience.

Techniques include things like deep breathing. Also, based on my therapy training, I talk myself through stressful moments. For example, I say to myself “They are entitled to their opinion, but I’m going to stay centered by keeping in mind all the people who love my work.”

Interviewer: You said on your blog “stories light the way through the complexities of life” – Could you say more about this?

Jerry: When you watch a movie or read a novel, the lessons only apply to people in the author’s fictional world. But when you read memoirs or try to write your own, you cross over from the fictional world into the real one. By seeing real life portrayed in memoirs, you can learn lessons and inspire hope. For example, the protagonists in memoirs strive relentlessly to achieve some goal. By surviving grief, or overcoming difficulties, they become heroes. In so many real world stories, the compassion of supportive people makes the difference between failure and survival. By thinking about the experience in life stories, you can solve problems, recover from grief, visualize the future, and make sense of other cultures.

Interviewer: You wrote a whole book about why you love the Memoir Revolution – could you pick one or two top reasons that would help WOW readers understand why this exploration has meant so much to you.”

Jerry: My impulse is to list dozens of reasons and go into detail on each one. Let me think how to boil it down. Simply put, memoirs have helped me understand myself better and at the same time helped me understand other people. After studying many memoirs and teaching classes, I realized that an ever-growing number of other writers are experiencing the same benefits. I feel like we’ve all been invited to a huge party. I’m excited every day to wake up and participate in this party.

Interviewer: What television shows do you watch?
Jerry: In previous years, my wife and I watched eight seasons of Project Runway. This year, we finished our second season of The Voice and our first season of So You Think You Can Dance. The thing all these shows have in common is that they are about people striving to achieve creative excellence. Each participant pours every morsel of their energy into doing a great job in order to please the viewer or listener.

I love memoir writers for the same reason. Every person who attempts to turn life into a story aspires to learn the techniques and strategies to ensure that the story is well told. I love to watch and participate in that mass movement in which tens of thousands of people are on a mad dash to please, entertain, and inform each other.

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