Process, Writing

Writing and Change: An Interview with Alex Meyers

A couple of weeks ago Alex and I joined other folks from our MSW program to give a presentation about the Applied Arts and Social Justice Certificate. Afterwards I talked with Alex about unfinished work. I love what she has to say about how as we change, our work changes–so it’s never truly complete. Read more about the “unfinished” project here

What is your unfinished project?

My blog is an ongoing project that I don’t know if I can ever complete. I started the blog as a deal I made with a friend four years ago. If she held up her side of the bargain then I had to start. I was moving to Yellowstone that summer so she thought it would be cool for me to write about my experiences. That’s how it started. I kept up with that for about two years and then when I moved to Guatemala I transferred platforms and kept writing. Now it has evolved again and I have a section for Portland and a section for my time in Guatemala. In the Portland section I reflect on things I learn in our program and also just everyday things that I think about and imagine other people may benefit from reading.

Why do you think it remains unfinished?

Even after I write about a topic I find myself going back to write about that topic again. I think my perception or understanding of what I’m writing about changes over time. If I wrote about something in Yellowstone, that’s four years ago, now I’m going to have a different idea or opinion of what I originally wrote. As I grow and have a better understanding of myself and my views of the world my writing is also going to change–it’s ever evolving.

When you think about your unfinished project, how do you feel? What do you think?

Sometimes unfinished work gives me anxiety. I’m typically a person who likes to start a project and finish it but with the blog, because I’ve had it for so long, I’m comfortable with the idea that it’s something I want to keep going with. It’s never going to be finished because I will continue growing and changing and as long as I continue to do that so will my blog.

“As I grow and have a better understanding of myself and my views of the world my writing is also going to change…”

Where do you keep it (the physical work and/or the idea)?

I have pieces of paper and notes scattered about–whether it’s in my room or on the dining room table. I have a bunch of different notes in my phone, nothing is ever organized. Sometimes I go through my phone trying to clean it out and I find blog topics in four different notes. I like to think that I continue to inspire myself at that point because I think, oh yeah, I wanted to write about that. I should think about it more and pursue it.

If you could look through the unfinished work of another creator who would it be? Why?

I have a couple friends from home who are really artistic and creative, their names are Liv and Ryan. Their ways of thinking are fascinating and so different from my own and from other people I know. They’re some of those people who once you talk to them you could sit there forever and you just want them to continue speaking. Ryan works in the music industry and he has an eye for visual art and writing as well. He’s just a really profound thinker. Liv is a painter and she’s also incredibly well spoken. To have them both together is so interesting because he has a completely different perspective from her. I love spending time with them because I learn so much.

Alex Meyers is a full-time MSW student at UNE and a part-time letter writer — having vowed to never let the art of handwritten letters die. She often wonders what it would be like to be organized but prefers chaos to keep her on her toes. She’s constantly seeking adventure, new creative outlets, and cute local coffee shops.

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unfinished

Unfinished

I have a folder on my computer titled “Clues.” It’s filled with pieces of writing that might lead somewhere, but are far from finished. In my notebooks, desk drawer, planner, and in the margins of novels I have a similar collection of sentences: ideas, inspirations, a string of words that made sense at the time but are cryptic in retrospect. These clues are full of possibility.

But then there are the other unfinished projects, skeletons abandoned for months or years, pages and pages of half-baked paragraphs and outlines and notes. There’s possibility there too, but also shame and frustration and fear of finishing. Knowing that I have an incomplete story that needs to be written can keep me away from a writing routine for months on end. The bridge between beginning and ending can be a terrifying one.

I’m always interested in projects that allow for a voyeuristic look at a creator’s unfinished work: sketchbooks, unrecorded songs, or manuscripts. This work is inspiring in its possibility and comforting in its very human themes (procrastination, confusion, even death). I’m thinking about all of this because I plan to interview creators about their unfinished projects. I’ll ask just five questions, hoping to discover more about why we struggle to finish work that we’ve begun.

  1. What is your unfinished project?
  2. Why do you think it remains unfinished?
  3. When you think about your unfinished project, how do you feel? What do you think?
  4. Where do you keep it (the physical work and/or the idea)?
  5. If you could look through the unfinished work of another creator, who would it be? Why?

I start a lot of projects and abandon many of them but I never abandon my love for asking people questions. I’m always inspired when I get to talk to people about their lives and creative work and I’m always grateful that people want to share their answers with me. More to come! 

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Craft, Process, Work, Writing

What People Told Me

MoonPracticing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. – Kurt Vonnegut

I am obsessed with how people work, especially people who work at writing or art making. I want to know everything: what pen they write with, when they painted their first picture, and why they feel compelled to create. In the past two years I’ve been lucky to interview writers and a few artists. The people I interviewed were remarkably generous with their time and thoughts. The words they shared with me were smart and inspiring and they help me show up to the blank page every morning. I thought I would share some of my favorites here.

People talk about inspiration, but like most artists I know that have lasted, I just get up and paint. – Andrew Moore

I visited Andrew Moore at his home and studio on Martha’s Vineyard. This was the second article I had ever published and it was a magical piece to report and write. Andrew is a talented painter with a fierce dedication to his work.

Because that’s what art is, as an organic, living thing: you’re directly influenced by what you absorb daily. – Domingo Martinez

It’s hard for me not to rave about Domingo Martinez. He wrote a really incredible first book but he is also one of the most talented, humble, and hilarious people I’ve ever encountered. I interviewed him via email for the Slice Magazine website.

2012-06-27_1340827609 copyI have pared my daily routine down to a monk-like sequence, so that I can be alive on the page. – Jennifer Tseng

Jennifer is a poet and fiction writer who lives on Martha’s Vineyard. I have never met someone so committed to their craft. Like many of the people I have interviewed, Jennifer surprised me with the time and attention she gave to me and my questions.

You learn to untether yourself from your version of the correct. – David Saltzman

I talked with David in a coffee shop in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s an attorney who started studying fiction writing in 2012. He was a great person to interview: excited, passionate, smart.

typewriter… we are alive in a magnificent time for writing right now. – Roxane Gay

If you don’t know Roxane Gay, you should. Enough said.

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