Interview: Jim Landwehr

Where do you draw the most inspiration for your writing?

Because most of my writing is nonfiction, I draw most of my inspiration from memorable experiences in my past. I tend to focus on humorous situations, so I focus on recalling the funny moments. With my poetry, I can find inspiration in a person, a situation, or an inanimate object. Often times my poetry will help me work out of my nonfiction writer’s block.

What challenges do you face when writing?

My absolute biggest challenge is the dreaded inner critic. Many writers fight this demon and mine is especially tenacious. I’ve written two memoirs, two books of poetry and have many other published stories and poems, yet still struggle with my legitimacy. It occasionally stonewalls me, but most often I am able to power through it.

Other than that, the only other big thing I struggle with is finding time to write and making the best use of it when I do. I am easily distracted and when I am writing on a computer, there are a dozen different distractions just a click away. Lately, I have been going back to longhand more often. It keeps me focused, plus the transcription onto the computer serves as a first edit.

Have you ever found yourself stuck on a piece of your work? If so, what methods help you get around this?

I remember my first real fiction short story a few years back—I was so proud of it. Then I took it to my writing workshop, and my peers proceeded to shoot holes in the plot, finding things I hadn’t thought of and making the story less believable. It was eye-opening. It also took me a while to work through each of the issues. The only method I can recommend when you are stuck is perseverance. Rewrite it until it works. No one ever published the book they gave up on because it got too hard. Writing is hard. If it wasn’t, everyone would do it

What made you first want to start writing?

I have always loved to write. I actually have a half dozen stories I wrote as a fourth-grade student on half sheets of paper to make little books. Later in life, I met my wife through writing letters back and forth in the days before email and social media. In addition to her, people have always said they loved my letters. This tipped me off that I might have a knack for it. Then, in 2009, I joined AllWriters’ Workplace and Workshop and I’ve been writing seriously ever since.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in writing? (maybe something you didn’t know when you started but now know)

I have a few bits of advice. First, WRITE. Whether it’s journaling, blogging, writing letters, or writing for publication, just do it. Second, once you’re in the habit, get involved with a writing group. Peer feedback and support is invaluable. I wouldn’t be where I am without people cheering me on and critiquing my work in the process. Finally, I would tell them to squash the inner critic’s voice. It will stifle you and it is not healthy.

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