Stories have arcs. Characters have arcs. Writers have arcs. We write, we get better at our craft. We read, we get better at our craft. We interact with other writers and our readers, we get better at our craft. Whether you are a professional writer or just starting out. Hobby or career. We are all in this together. Welcome.

Contact: Elena Hartwell - elenahartwell@gmail.com and visit me on the web at www.elenahartwell.com

Spotlight on William Kenower

William Kenower is the author of Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion, and is the Editor-in-Chief of Author magazine, an online magazine for writers and dedicated readers. He writes a popular daily blog for the magazine about the intersection of writing and our daily lives, and has interviewed hundreds of writers of every genre. He also hosts the online radio program Author2Author where every week he and a different guest discuss the books we write and the lives we lead. 

He lives in Seattle, WA with his wife and two boys. 

The Interview -- Part II

Scroll Down For Part I

Understanding your son's autism informs how you understand being a writer and finding truth and joy in life. How do the vulnerabilities of being a father (to an autistic child) and the vulnerabilities of being a writer (and public figure) compare?
Let me begin by saying that I don’t really believe there is such a thing as autism. My son adopted some unusual behavior strategies early in life that got him that label/diagnosis. I don’t know that he’d get that diagnosis any more. And I think this is true of all kids we call autistic, even the ones who can’t really talk or care for themselves the way other people can. I think there are many ways to be human, many approaches, and all of them work in their own way. Who would you let define what your happiness should look like?

As a father, I could not help Sawyer if I believed he was broken. He looked broken to me sometimes, by which I mean I did not understand how he could succeed and be happy in life, but this perception was always inaccurate. Often the only way to see him as someone who wasn’t broken was if I first stopped seeing myself as broken, and the only way to do that was when I remembered that no one is broken.

This relates directly to writing. There is no such thing a broken person. There is no such thing as a writer who simply “doesn’t have what it takes.” Talent is nothing but curiosity; genius is curiosity indulged. Remembering this helps me get my eyes off of what other people are doing and back on what I want to do. Kids we call autistic, by the way, are often completely uninterested in what other people are doing, which usually makes them look a little weird to those of us who are used to caring.

You've written how perceiving something as a threat creates one behavior, and perceiving that same thing as NOT a threat creates a different behavior. Much of finding peace and joy in life has been learning to see things as non-threatening, where previously you would view danger. How have you managed to make that perceptual change? How has that impacted your writing and public life?
It was working with my son that really changed this. I couldn’t see his behavior as a problem, by which I mean a threat to my wellbeing. A child’s behavior can threaten a parent’s wellbeing if that parent believes he cannot be happy until that child stops doing this or starts doing that. I never liked the answers to the question, “What should I do now?” when I saw his behavior as a problem. The answers got far better when I saw what he was doing as the best available option to him at that moment.

This is like writing. An unwritten paragraph could be perceived as a problem. After all, if you never finish it, or if you don’t finish it well enough, the piece will be no good and maybe you’ll have reached the end of your writing road. Writers think stranger things. You cannot write under threat of failure. You can only write – which is nothing more than making many, many choices – when you forget about problems and start instead remembering what you’re curious about and letting that be enough.

What are you working on now?
I’m rewriting the memoir No One Is Broken. I got some very good feedback (I almost never ask for feedback) from a very good agent. That’s all I’ll say about that!

Final Words of Wisdom

Your confidence is your unconditional love for the story you are telling. Here’s a secret: You don’t care what anyone else thinks. Not really. When you enter that dream state you so love, when you’re in that flow following your story and losing track of time and not thinking at all what anyone else believes is good or bad only about the next great thing and the next great thing and the next great thing, you’ve remembered the truth of it. In fact, you’ve remembered what life is supposed to feel like.

The Interview -- Part I

Your writing life is inextricably linked to other writers, teaching, and exploring what it means to be human. How do all those parts go together for you in your daily life?
I begin every episode of Author2Author by saying that “What it takes to write the book you want to write is what it takes to lead the life you want to lead.” I actually mean that. To me, creating on purpose – which is what writers must do if they want to fill a blank page – is what it means to be human. So whether I’m writing a memoir, writing a blog for authors, interviewing authors, coaching would-be authors, or teaching a workshop, I’m always writing or talking about the exact same thing: How do you live on purpose?

And I should add, on a purely practical level, I used to believe in chopping wood. That was how I worked. I’d say, “Bill, you may not want to do this, but you’re going to do it anyway because it’s the right thing to do.” I got tired of working that way, and so now I only do things when I want. Fortunately, I always want to do these things, only sometimes I forget that I want to. Over the years, I’ve taught myself how to remember that I want to do this or that, and once I have, I’m off.

Did you find your voice as a writer and your voice as a writing coach/teacher together? Or did one lead the other? Tell us how that came about.
I really found my voice when I started writing to support and encourage writers. That was where I learned to say, “Everything is okay even though it looks like everything is not okay.” I wrote without teaching for several years, but all that writing taught me the language I wanted to use to teach and lecture. Now, when I’m writing, I’ll often jump up from the desk in the middle of a paragraph and begin pacing around my office practicing how I would teach what I just discovered. And sometimes in the teaching I learn something I can use in my writing.

I also love teaching because invariably someone asks a question I can’t answer to my satisfaction. I don’t like this experience while it’s happening (I like to have all the answers), but then I’ll mull the question over for a week or two or three and eventually I’ll have a new insight about something that I might not have come to otherwise. Teachers usually learn way more than students.

Writing can be a lonely calling, what drew you to making it a little less lonely for other authors? What induces you to come to the aid of the rest of us?
I wrote to help myself. Everything I said was something I needed to hear. It’s like there are two Bills: The one who’s suffering, and the one who never suffers. When I’m writing, I turn it over to the one who never suffers. It’s easier to find him in the quiet of my workroom. Out in the hurly-burly of life, with all those other people, it’s easy to lose track of him. I am thrilled that my work is of use to other people, but frankly, by the time I’m done with something it’s usually served me so well that anything else that comes of it is gravy.

And I should say that I am never less lonely than when I’m writing and it’s going well, when the Bill Who Never Suffers is in the fore. That is the opposite of loneliness. That is what taught me that loneliness is always just forgetting who I actually am.

Check back September 15 for Part II