As an aspiring writer, I try to read as often as possible. Sometimes, I’ll read a piece of fiction, or a line or two of dialogue, and think-Wow, I wish I could write like that.
This happened to me recently while reading Dan Buri’s Pieces Like Pottery. The book is a sincere exploration of heartbreak, and it’s spent a lot of time as an Amazon Bestseller. I encourage everyone to order a copy of the book today! You won’t be disappointed.
Buri’s writing achieves something that I’ve always struggled with. Conveying the complexity of human emotion, and common experience. Buri accomplishes this in a way that is both simple and eloquent.
That’s why I had to reach out to him for an author interview, and Buri was kind enough to oblige. The following are some true words of wisdom from the kind, and very skilled, writer- Dan Buri.
Blog for Indie Writers: Nothing Any Good
Author of Pieces Like Pottery
Goodreads: Dan Buri
Dan’s newest book:
40 Tips On Creative Writing
What’s a common mistake you see from writers just starting out?
Buri: Once upon a time I thought I needed to write in a particular time and place. I would typically write at night and need to be in the perfect mood to do so. With a very demanding job, a wonderful wife, and two young children, however, I quickly found that I was not finding much time to write at all. I had to begin writing anytime I could find a free 30 minutes. I was lucky I did too.
I think young writers always wait for the moment of inspiration to strike. These moments are amazing, but they are a great luxury. The truth, in my opinion, is that writing is as much about editing and revising as it is about the writing itself. I have so many pages of writing on the cutting room floor, so to speak. Maybe editing is a beautiful and inspiring process for some people, but for most writers I know, it is painstaking. There’s nothing inspirational about it for me. Having very little time to write each day helped me to begin taking my writing to the next level, to learn to hone it as a craft, rather than writing simply being an inspirational hobby. I had to find time to write whenever I could, regardless of whether the circumstances were perfect.
That being said, I still love to write at night over a nice glass of wine or a whiskey. Nothing beats that.
When did you feel like you had become a “real” writer?
Buri: I’ll let you know when I get that feeling!
If you could travel back in time, to the beginning of your career, what’s the one tip you’d give yourself?
Buri: Write. Write. Write. Ignore the doubts that plague every write—is this any good? what do I have to say anyway?—just write. I heard a great interview with Elizabeth Gilbert (best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love) a number of years ago. When asked about the fears and doubts that she had with her writing, she said she finally had an epiphany that her “writing muse” was telling her that this isn’t her story. If she doesn’t tell it, she said, then the muse would move on to someone else who will. Ms. Gilbert discussed how freeing this was for her. She was no longer declaring to the reader: “Listen to me. I have something to say.” It was almost as if she had no other choice but to write. This opened her up to write every day without fear of the result.
This interview struck me then and has really stuck with me. You can’t be a good writer if you’re not writing often. I wish I had realized at a young age that everything I put on paper wasn’t going to be great, but it will be nothing if I don’t actually write.
Who are some of your favorite writers, and how did they influence your work?
Buri: I feel like this is the question that readers and writers always ask in a judgmental way. It’s as if your readers are going to judge me by the authors I enjoy. “Oh no, I don’t agree with that at all. John Grisham? This guy clearly isn’t serious about his writing.”
I am constantly inspired by writers, but I made a decision a long time ago not to try to duplicate any other author’s style. I wanted to find my own voice and have worked diligently at that. I have a lot of authors that I love, though. A few, in no particular order: Gertrude Warner, Shell Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Grisham, Malcolm Gladwell, Cormac McCarthy, Bill Bryson and Mark Twain. I could probably list another hundred who’s writing I enjoy with wonderment.
Is writing a craft or an art form?
Buri: I don’t find the two to be mutually exclusive. I think it’s both. Writing is a craft as much wood working is, and wood working is an art form as much is writing is.
What are some daily practices that you think every aspiring writer should do?
Buri: There are a million practices we can choose from as writers. I think each writer needs to find what works best for himself or herself. There are two things, though, that I think a writer needs to do every day—write and read. You need to write something every day. You need to read something every day. The what and the how are up to you, but writing and reading need to happen daily.
On average, how long does it take you to finish a book or story?
Buri: I don’t think there’s an average time for me at all to be honest. My first book—Pieces Like Pottery—took me 7 years to finish. 7 long years. My second book is a guide for authors in their writing process. It’s coming out in the next few weeks and it took me two months to complete. I’ve finished stories in a day and I’ve had stories sitting untouched for years. So average time? I honestly couldn’t even venture a guess.
Writer’s block- How do you deal with it, or do you even believe in it?
Buri: Can somebody not believe in writer’s block? It’s not like believing in Santa Claus. It’s more like believing in gravity. Even if someone says I don’t believe in gravity, it’s still here holding their feet firmly on the ground.
Without question I suffered from writer’s block. I think any writer that says she/he doesn’t is lying. I typically try to write my way out of it. It’s not fun, but I just keep writing. Usually the words I write as I’m trying to get out of it aren’t any good, but hopefully I eventually get through it. I also write non-fiction for a number of websites and blogs, so I have the luxury of putting the book aside at times and focusing on other work. I always recommend having multiple projects going on at once. If all else fails, I go outside. Nature always seems to inspire me.
Thanks Dan for your time and all your great advice!