It’s the last Friday of the month and I am thrilled to welcome Leigh Medeiros to our 5 Questions series.
Leigh Medeiros is a creativity coach, story editor, amateur naturalist, rescue dog mom, and author of The 1-Minute Writer (Simon & Schuster, 2019.) She’s an energetic and encouraging creative force who can help you settle into your writing, even when you thought you had nothing to say.
You can find out more about Leigh’s work on her website: LeighMedeiros.com.
1) Do you find yourself compelled to write or do you have to coax yourself into it?
Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate writing; I love having written.” Oh, can I relate. It’s not that I hate writing, really, it’s just that taking a blank page and transforming it into a solid creative work is particularly hard – and I say that as someone who’s done innumerable hard things from being a personal assistant in Hollywood to teaching middle school. I nearly always have to coax myself into writing, even while knowing that it brings a soul-deep feeling of satisfaction.
Fortunately, once I’m beyond the dreaded first draft stage, I have a much easier time of consistently showing up to whatever project I’m working on.
2) What themes do you find yourself revisiting in your writing?
Funny, I often think about theme when I’m working on individual narratives, but I hadn’t ever contemplated what themes may recur across various mediums and projects – so thank you for that! After a bit of thought
I’m unsurprised to discover that most of my work deals, thematically, with breaking free from anxiety. As someone who has navigated severe panic disorder for 28 years and agoraphobia for the last several, this makes perfect sense. I notice that I also gravitate toward characters who fit
the “fish out of water” archetype, which also makes sense since anxiety comes with feeling displaced and, frequently, disconnected.
3) What are your obstacles to writing and how do you get around them?
My greatest obstacle is how my mind persuades me into thinking that it’s okay to write later. Every writer knows that later is the vanishing point on the horizon line– it never gets any closer. My most tried and true way to get around the issue of “later” is to write as regularly as possible and in small increments, sometimes just a minute or two. It also helps if I don’t conflate the writing project with where I work. What I mean is, I don’t limit myself to writing at my desk or even on the manuscript itself. My process includes typing on my phone when I climb into bed at night or scribbling on the back of a grocery list as I’m puttering around the kitchen. Since I’m
generally pretty organized and hypervigilant, I never forget to collect all these bits of flotsam and jetsam and email them to myself. When I write (for longer than a few minutes) I have two tandem documents open in addition to my manuscript, one being the outline and the other being a collection of notes. All the stray writing gets dropped into the notes document then integrated into the manuscript later.
4) What practical advice do you most often share with other writers?
Many years ago, I had the privilege of meeting and hanging out with Oscar-winning screenwriter/director Tom McCarthy. When I asked him for advice he offered up two words: Keep writing. At the time, this felt woefully simple and obvious, but now that I’m a bit more seasoned, perhaps, I recognize the essential wisdom in it. When we keep writing, we continually improve our craft while also uncoupling the work from inspiration. From a pragmatic standpoint, those who find success at writing are often not the most brilliant or talented, but rather are the ones who never stopped doing it. In that regard, the perpetual devotion to your creative work brings you closer to success.
5) What non-writing activity do you do that most helps you with your writing?
Hands down, it’s going for a walk, coupled with being unplugged from podcasts, music, and people. Driving works too. The mind needs unstructured time to skip and bounce through random thoughts in
order to make connections. Stories have to gestate in order to be born and letting the mind roam is part of that process.