Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Writers on the Writing Process: An Interview with Writer Bernadette Geyer

Writer, Bernadette Geyer
Bernadette Geyer is a freelance writer and editor in Berlin, Germany. Her poetry collection, The Scabbard of Her Throat, was published by The Word Works in 2013. Geyer’s poems have appeared in Oxford American, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. Her non-fiction has been published in Border Crossing, Freelance Writer's Report, and Go World Travel.

Laura Davis: How often do you write and for how long? What time of day?

Bernadette Geyer: I try to write every day, Monday through Friday. Primarily, this is because I am now working as a full-time freelancer and if I don’t write, I don’t make any money. As for “what” I write every day, that fluctuates wildly: one day I may be working on a non-fiction article I want to pitch to a travel magazine, while another day I may be writing translations of poems. I have a novel idea that I am also working on when there is no one else in the house – which is rare, because both my husband and I are self-employed and share a home office. Because we have an 8-year-old, I work primarily while she is at school – between 8:00am and about 3:30pm. That gives me a pretty decent chunk of time to work on my writing every day, be it fiction, non-fiction, poetry, translations, or blog posts. Of course, about 1/3 of the time is also spent doing the administrative-type stuff that all writers have to deal with – finding markets for the writing, tracking submissions, updating the web site, etc.

LD: How long have you been writing?

BG: I loved to write in middle school, where I started by writing Nancy Drew-type stories. I still have those. I would bring a pencil and lined paper out to recess with me, find a place to sit, and work on my stories. Sometimes, I remember classmates passing around the pages as soon as I finished them. Once, a neighbor gave me 50 cents for letting her read one of my stories. I wish I could remember which neighbor that was because, that probably gave me my first taste of connecting with a reader. In high school, I started writing poetry, and even had a poem published in a little regional publication for high school students. One of my English teachers – Mr. S. – really encouraged my writing. I tried everything in high school – short stories, plays, poetry, essays. I remember loving it all. When I went to college, I continued writing poetry – both for English classes as well as for personal enjoyment – but it wasn’t until after I’d graduated and started down a career path in the “business world,” that I really started to look at my creative writing as a genuine craft that I could continue. While I do not have an MFA, I have taken many workshops and attended writing retreats as a way to further my own creative writing.

LD: How do you motivate yourself to write?

BG: Trying to make money is a great motivation for most of the writing (and editing) that I am doing at this point in time. I am also the toughest boss I’ve ever had, so there’s not really any trouble with motivating myself to write. Seriously, if I wasn’t me, I wouldn’t want me as a boss.

My ongoing to-do list includes a page full of the ideas I’ve thought of for articles or essays. Each morning, I sit down and look through the whole to-do list and pick out 2-3 items I will accomplish that day. At least one of those items will involve some type of writing. Once I have my day’s goals written down, I start working. Butt in chair, writing. That’s what it takes.

LD: Do you believe in “writer’s block”?

BG: I do believe that writers can get “stuck” during the course of a project. I think that is why, for me, it is good that I have many potential projects to work on at any given time. When I feel like I’ve gotten “blocked” from progressing on a particular project, I just switch to something different for a while. That usually gives me time and space to re-set and to let my brain relax so that it can open itself up to new ways of thinking that can get me through a blockage point. It’s like if you are driving down a road and you have your eyes firmly set on the ground directly in front of your car, but suddenly there’s a fallen tree across the road. You have to stop, take your eyes off the road directly in front of you, and look around for another way of getting where you are going. Or, maybe you realize that that’s not really where you needed to go anyway.

LD: Beverage of choice?

BG: Coffee in the morning. Once lunchtime hits, water for the rest of the afternoon. I am a no-frills creature of habit when I am working at my desk, but sometimes (if I’m feeling impetuous) I will add a slice of lemon or lime to my water.

When I occasionally go out by myself somewhere to read and write in the evening, I will always go for red wine. I have a favorite wine bar just down the block – old wooden tables, dark painted walls, candles flickering on every table, small bowls of olives and cheese for sale, and great windows to gaze through.

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