Episode 145 // NaNoWriMo & Writing Your Story with Grant Faulkner

October 10, 2017

Grant Faulkner of NaNoWriMo joins us to talk about the writing process, owning the title of “writer,” and getting past blocks or struggles to make writing a part of your routine and write your first or next novel.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
This Episode Brought to You By:
"Big things are built in small increments."
- Grant Faulkner

Discussed in this Episode

  • What is #NaNoWriMo?
  • Owning the title of "writer"
  • Building writing into part of your routine
  • Why is it so hard to write and how can you shift that mindset?
  • Examples of authors that have published books from NaNoWriMo
  • Getting past blocks and struggles of writing
  • Exercises for writers
  • What does it mean to take a risk in your work?
  • Tips for becoming a better writer

Resources

More from Grant Faulkner

More from Kathleen

Braid Creative

More from Emily

Almanac Supply Co.

Transcript

Kathleen Shannon 0:01
Hello, and welcome to being boss,

Emily Thompson 0:03
a podcast for creative entrepreneurs. I'm Emily Thompson.

Kathleen Shannon 0:07
And I'm Kathleen Shannon.

Grant Faulkner 0:08
I'm grant Faulkner and I'm being boss.

Kathleen Shannon 0:16
Today we're talking about NaNoWriMo. That's National Novel Writing Month with grant Faulkner. As always, you can find all the tools, books and links we reference on the show notes at WWW dot being boss club. Hey, bosses, I wanted to take a second to give a shout out to fresh books, cloud accounting. Now, they've been with us being boss since almost the very beginning. And that's because you guys are actually using fresh books, you're signing up and you're letting them know that we sent you their way. And I wanted to make sure all of our new listeners know exactly what I'm talking about whenever we share our love for fresh books, so let me spell it out for you. Fresh books cloud accounting is the number one accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today over 10 million small businesses and a lot of new bosses. use fresh books to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time. You can try fresh books cloud accounting for free by going to freshbooks comm slash being boss and enter being boss in the How did you hear about us section. And huge thanks to freshbooks for hanging with us for so long. And a big thank you to you guys for going their way and trying them out.

Grant Wagner is the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month. But you guys This episode is about more than just writing novels. We're getting into the creative process of writing in general. But let me tell you a little bit more about grant Faulkner. He is the executive director at NaNoWriMo. But he's also the co founder of 100 word story, his book of essays on creativity, pep talks for writers 52 insights and prompts to boost your creative Mojo is out now. So get it wherever books are sold. Alright, onto the episode. Grant, thank you so much for joining us on being boss.

Grant Faulkner 2:13
Thank you. I'm looking forward to this.

Kathleen Shannon 2:15
Okay, so before we start to dig in, I have to tell you, every single November rolls around, and I start seeing hashtag NaNoWriMo on my social media and it gives me serious hashtag FOMO. I feel like I'm missing out on some sort of like cool kids club. So can you tell us what NaNoWriMo is? And what your role at the company? Or is it even a company organization, revolution movement, tell us about it.

Grant Faulkner 2:46
It is all those things. It's a creative phenomenon. And it is an organization, we're nonprofit, and you are missing out, I have to tell you, you're missing out. I can't believe you haven't followed that hashtag into this wonderful creative experience. NaNoWriMo is many things. At its very, most basic, it's a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It's an event. But it's also much more than that. It's really I always say it's a community because part of that the NaNoWriMo hashtag you're seeing it's like we we trend on Twitter throughout November. It's part of its success is about the galvanizing force of the community around it. And so we say and believe that everyone has a story to tell and that everyone's story matters. So we are are all about telling people, you know, we want people to embrace that they're writers and the creators. I hear too often people tell me I'm not a writer, or I'm not a creative type. And we're creative types because we're human beings. But sometimes people put up obstacles between themselves and their creativity. So that's that's basically why we exist to ignite people's creative potential. Right,

Emily Thompson 3:59
I kind of feel like NaNoWriMo is what is like almost like a writer initiation where if you want to become a writer, like you sit down every day for 30 days and write and you are a writer, you have become a writer. And again, not that you can like become one because I do think that so many people are one but I do feel like that's like a good a good personal starting point for claiming the title of being a writer.

Grant Faulkner 4:25
Absolutely. It's like one part, writing bootcamp. It's a great way to become a writer actually, because you learn that valuable lesson of showing up every single day to write you know that that is the single biggest writing tip out there. It's amazing that it has to be said, but you know, do not wait for inspiration. You'll find inspiration on the page when you sit down and write. But other than being like this boot camp, I think sometimes writing is full of like way too much kind of anguish and masochistic self inflicted pain. NaNoWriMo is also a party. You know, this community this this this community, we have Well, why don't we break down the mythology of the solitary writer. And we add, you know, these fun dashes of whimsy and creative collaboration to it all. So it really does feel like a party, although at times you are drinking too much coffee and not getting enough sleep at that party.

Kathleen Shannon 5:16
Right? Can we talk about this for a second, because I feel like a lot of people don't identify with that label writer. Because one, they don't have a cabin in the woods, to maybe they don't have a big enough alcohol problem to consider themselves a writer. And I'm kind of joking about this. But what I'm trying to say is that I think that a lot of us as creatives have this idea of what a writer or even a painter or a performer, or whatever it is that you kind of want to do, but don't do, because you're letting the identity of what it looks like to be that person get in your way of actually doing the thing. And I think that's what I like about NaNoWriMo is that it's like, No, just do the thing, sit down, show up and do the work. So I'm curious to hear from you, with your experience. Why do you think it is that people feel like they need to have this identity or the cabin in the woods in order to be a capital W writer,

Grant Faulkner 6:15
it's a really odd thing. And I think about it a lot, because our definition of being a writer is you you're a writer, because you write, right, like people are runners because they're they brought after work or before work. But I think writing has a certain sort of precious notion to it, that you're not a real writer. And I hear this all the time. And I've been there, I've told this myself, it's taken me like decades to say I'm a writer, literally, that you have to be published that you have to get validation from others that you have to receive awards. And all these things that they're great. But you know, you're you're a writer, and you're creative, because you do it, you sit down and do it. So you know, when you were starting to talk about the the log cabin, I would love that log cabin. The alcoholism, I don't want the alcoholism, but I was just imagining this like lonely, decrepit figure up there in the log cabin just drinking away. And I'm not sure if that's a writer. I think there's a lot of weird images we have of creative types. And you know, there are a lot of different ways to be to inhabit your your identity as a creator. And I think that that's, that's when you're talking about the identity. I think if you want to be a writer, you have to tell yourself, your writer and inhabit that. And what you'll find is you'll be much better creator, you'll be much braver on the page as a result.

Emily Thompson 7:31
Well, and I also feel like a lot of the problem with people claiming the things they're not consistently doing the thing. So you know, you're a writer, and you write often, but you aren't living your life with a purpose of writing or you're not making it a daily part of your day. And that's one of the things that I've loved most about watching the NaNoWriMo movement and growing is that you're really giving people almost a structure for doing the thing, which allows them to better claim the fact that their writing,

Grant Faulkner 8:04
yeah, you know, I think back to the the the the accoutrements of being a writer are the are the things that people feel they need to be a writer. We provide those, like less, less sexy aspects of creativity, you know, like you do have to know something or practice time management to accomplish your creative goals. You do have to have grit and resilience, you do have to sit down on good days and bad days, you know, all these things, like when people talk about great novels, and they'll focus on like, the wonderful prose, the suspense, the dialogue, the characterization, but all of that's produced by these very unsexy, you know, boot camp ish type elements that a program like NaNoWriMo actually provides.

Emily Thompson 8:47
Right I the other day, so Kathleen, and I finished writing our first book

Unknown Speaker 8:52
now that we're entertaining enough to say, I still don't feel like a capital W right? Oh, we

Unknown Speaker 8:57
gotta say, by the

Grant Faulkner 8:58
end of this podcast.

Emily Thompson 8:59
Yeah, right. Yeah, exact same. But as I was prepping for this interview, and and looking back at NaNoWriMo, and things I was thinking, I'm going to do it one because I'm going to sit down every day and do it. But I also sat down in my in my notebook, and I wrote like, I am an author, and then wrote out like, what that looks like. And it looks like it doesn't look like what my current life looks like, by any means. And this idea of, of writing every single day, just for the purpose of writing, not to like crank out a newsletter, say, well

Kathleen Shannon 9:32
write emails every single day,

Emily Thompson 9:34
or an email. But really writing for the purpose of expressing creativity in a greater way than just cranking out some more words, even though cranking out words does have its own place. But for me getting super clear on what it looked like for me to be the thing that I want to be gave me a lot of clarity as to what the steps that I need to take To actually feel like the writer that I know that I am,

Grant Faulkner 10:03
yeah, what did you write down as your definition of an author,

Emily Thompson 10:06
um, one of them was writing every day. And I think I might have put, I think I might have put a word count on there, like, because I'm all about metrics and numbers and measuring the thing. So I needed something to attract. So I was writing every day, working consistently on my next book proposal. I feel like there was a third thing in there, and I can't remember what it was, but small things, honestly, small things that are very easy to implement, I just got to do it.

Grant Faulkner 10:35
Right, I think, you know, NaNoWriMo is this big, crazy event where people writing 50,000 words in a month, most people can't do that every month. And, and most a lot of writing, you don't need to write like, once you finish that novel, you've got to revise it. We believe in revision too. But you know, it's one of the most frequent things I hear from people who sign up to NaNoWriMo, they'll kind of they'll, they'll see me someplace and walk kind of very slowly and defeated Lee over to me hanging their head, and they'll apologize for only writing 10,000 words in November. And, and and failing as they, as I say, and I'm always like, no, that's not cause that's not a failure, that's 10,000 words in a month, that's tremendous. You just me per your metrics, you know, multiply that times 12, you've got 120,000 words in a year. That's a huge novel, maybe two novels. So I think sometimes people, one of the obstacles they put in front of themselves, is the notion that a writer needs like this vast amount of time to accomplish things. I mean, as a working parent, I write in the nooks and crannies of my days. So when you're talking about a personal daily word count, you know, only writing 200 or 500 words a day, it all adds up, you know, a big things are built in small increments. And so I think you have to kind of constantly remind yourself of that,

Kathleen Shannon 11:51
for sure. Yeah. While we were writing our book, I remember there were moments where I was just like, typing away at the keyboard, and my kid was at my feet. Like Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, I can't right now I'm writing. I'm doing it, I'm doing the thing. And I guess in those moments, I kind of felt like a writer a little bit. But it's just so interesting how I have no shame in saying I'm a podcaster. But a writer, I guess, because it just is such a special sacred, there is something about words on paper, and especially when it's being published. There's this permanence to it. And I think it's something that we grow up respecting so much. I mean, how much joy have books brought us in our lifetime? Right? So here's what I want to ask you next? Why is writing so incredibly painful? Like, if you talk to anybody who's writing a book, you would act like they're being tortured into it? Like, it's just the most miserable awful thing? in the world? Why is it so hard? And does it really mean to be so hard?

Grant Faulkner 12:55
That's a good question. You know, talking isn't hard, is it? Like we've been talking a lot, we've been having fun, there's no pain, right? It's, it's words are being put together wonderful words. So far, so good, some, some wonderful words, and stories have been told. And we just do it. And so I, the anguish that comes into writing, I think when we're measuring ourselves against those capital W writers, and feeling insufficient, and filling ourselves with self doubt, because if we were doing this with talking, right, we would be pausing a lot, we'd be really constructing our sentences to be, you know, more beautifully formed. But we do it just intuitively. So I think it's a good thing to do. I mean, right writing is, I think, necessarily fulfilled with a degree of anguish. But sometimes I think writers Can, can over exaggerate that, or, I don't know, embrace that too much as an obstacle. So I think I mean, one of the premises of NaNoWriMo is like, let's make it fun. You know, there is anguish, but let's make it fun. And there are ways to make it fun. Like one of the activities we do is like to give people a word prompt, and five, a five minute word sprint, and they write as much as they can in that five minutes. So they're moving their story forward. And it's actually really fun to do that because it kind of feels like improv acting. So there, there are a lot of ways that you can make it fun. And I think sometimes we forget that the playful approach like will improve your prose, your story, whether it's a nonfiction book or a fiction book. I also think sometimes we forget that writing doesn't have to all happen in front of the computer with your 10th cup of coffee, and your you know, whatever. You smoke your 15 cigarette writing

Kathleen Shannon 14:37
smoking habit,

Grant Faulkner 14:38
I think, I think you're the log cabin type of writer with that with that bottle of wine.

Kathleen Shannon 14:43
I November and right and

Grant Faulkner 14:48
I'm really worried about you.

Unknown Speaker 14:51
After you go to that log cabin, you

Kathleen Shannon 14:53
have to check in with me in December grant and see how I'm

Grant Faulkner 14:56
doing well, that's only if their cell phone reception at your log Kevin, right. But if you're at that log cabin, take a walk every once in a while, I just did a month long writing residency where I had really ambitious word count goals. And it was I was full of anguish, I was starting a new novel. I hate writing rough drafts. That's part of the reason I did NaNoWriMo. So I could revise, or get into revision more quickly. But I found that my most productive times happened when I took my daily walk at the end of the day. And that's when I had the aha moments. The epiphany is that move the story forward. So I think that if writers, I think it's like anything, if you shift your attitude towards the thing you're doing, you can, you can change it just to your attitude. So I think if you're, if you're being burdened by the anguish of writing, I think you need to like take a step back and think about why this is a meaningful activity, like what you get out of it, and what you give to the world, you know, you're giving yourself something and you're giving the world something by writing.

Kathleen Shannon 15:52
I think part of the English probably comes from the rules. So as I was talking about how books are this revered thing in our society, and even for, you know, as personally in our listeners, probably our libraries were our havens as children. But also in school, we're taught all these rules around grammar and sentence structure. And I really feel like I found my voice, and was able to embrace being a writer more so whenever I could just throw the rules out the window. And Funny enough, I mean, we wrote an entire book, Emily and I together, and I think it was less painful for us because we were doing it together and just workshopping it non stop together. And we, whenever we got our round of edits back from our editor, one of the comments that consistently came up throughout the book was, this might sound good in conversation, or you know, as you're talking, but we need to structure it a little differently for the words and it wasn't a big deal. Like the the edits were minor as far as shifting it from that conversational voice to the actual written word. And it just wasn't a big deal. So let me think, what's my next question from here? What do you think about talking? as you're writing? Is that one of the exercises that you ever have? Or do or what about like, even if you don't have an editor coming back and telling you like, yeah, this is kind of, Okay, here's what we could do to make it better?

Grant Faulkner 17:23
Yeah, I think I think you hit it on the head, in terms of like, part of the anguish is that internal editor who's speaking to you, and maybe maybe that internal editor is still remembering those early grammar marks that a teacher made on your paper, because so much of the way that people learn to write is oftentimes through what they do wrong, which isn't very inspiring, instead of like, following their passions, and so I'm getting a little bit off topic here. But I think, I think the best way to teach writing is by helping kids find a passionate entry point. And I just want to plug our young writers program on that note, because we have 80,000 kids and teens sign up for it every year, we support 4000 classrooms to do it. And this is all to say that there's another way to I mean, kids learn best when they when they are learning through their passions. And so I think that we all had that experience, maybe we are writing voice might come out more naturally. But per like talking out a story, I think that is can be a great technique for people. I know a lot of people use dictation software for that, or they'll dictate, you know, scenes while they're in a traffic jam or something like that into their phone. I personally haven't done that. But I think it could be a great technique depending on what you're writing. And if you want it to be more conversational. Not everyone has an editor, you know, and I think editors are just so amazing. And I always want them to even edit like much more, you know, deep deeper than they even go, I just want it all. And it's tough, it's tough to accept that it's sometimes hard to see them. Because we're all vulnerable about our writing. But if you don't have an editor, that's where the community comes in. I think if you're inclined to receive feedback from others, I mean, we have a bunch of community resources with NaNoWriMo. But writing communities are everywhere in libraries and schools on the internet. So I think it is really important to receive feedback, but everybody's different about that too, about what type of feedback they want. And if they want it, I actually don't get much feedback until I'm in my very, very final draft. So

Kathleen Shannon 19:22
yeah. Speaking of conversational writing, one of my favorite authors is rainbow Burwell. Yeah, I'm not sure if I'm saying her name right. And I snana rental writer. Yes that she wrote fan girl starting in NaNoWriMo. Yeah. So can you share some other like maybe books we've heard of that started with NaNoWriMo

Grant Faulkner 19:42
You know, there are hundreds, if not 1000s traditionally published books and then 1000s and 1000s of self published books that have come out of NaNoWriMo he How is a big thing he sold millions of copies of his novel wall. And he wrote he says he learned How to be a writer during NaNoWriMo. Marissa Meyer has written numerous of her novels during NaNoWriMo. Erin Morgenstern I'm spacing on the name but I can't believe this. I'll tell you the name after this podcast Sarah Sarah ruin. So sir grown? Yeah.

Kathleen Shannon 20:22
It's so incredible. And so you know, it's funny looking at these authors and you know, seeing wool on this list or seeing rainbow Burwell on the list and thinking, Oh, they were like a capital W writer in my mind, but maybe they started just like any of our listeners might begin or just like we might do it is by just sitting down and they

Grant Faulkner 20:42
did doing the damn thing. And you know, what they start every novel like that. Maya Angelou said that, you know, she never felt like a real writer, not a capital W writer. Even after all of those awards, all those books she published, you know, writers are always writing with a degree of self doubt. And even though you write one big, wonderful novel, you when you start the next one, it's a new, a new piece, you're starting over.

Kathleen Shannon 21:06
What do you think is the biggest obstacle or challenge to getting started on a new project?

Grant Faulkner 21:12
I think they're, they're, well, they're few. On one hand, I think people, they tell themselves, they're going to do someday, when they've got that wonderful time. And they're going to be on a tropical island, and everything's just gonna be perfect for them. And so when you're waiting for the perfect environment, or the perfect circumstances, that usually just doesn't happen. And so, but they, but it's easy to pick yourself out and believe that it's going to happen. So that's one reason for NaNoWriMo is like, don't wait for somebody to write your novel. Write it today. Let me think the other thing

Kathleen Shannon 21:44
about you like you hate writing rough drafts, or your first draft, what what do you feel is like the hardest part of it?

Grant Faulkner 21:55
Oh, every every sentence of that rough draft? Yeah, unless you create, I mean, I'm bad. I think one of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it's all about moving forward. And so you can create momentum, so that each sentence will build on the other sense, I always say, I don't believe in writer's block, because I think if you write one sentence that leads to another sentence. And I think that you can also, I used to get caught up way too much in in, in editing that first sentence of that first paragraph, or that first chapter, and just doing it over and over and over again, and waiting until it was perfect before moving forward. But the fact is, is like it's going to get all changed in revision anyway. So it's kind of a waste of time. The author Karen Russell and I, almost every author I've talked to says this, that 90% of her rough draft doesn't make it to her final draft. And so I think you have to accept that, that your rough draft is this exploratory period. And that's the thing I love about it is that your story is so wide open, it can go in so many different directions. And it's, especially if you've only committed 30 days to it. You're not that attached to it. So you can you can chop off chapters and revision and keep working on it. So

Kathleen Shannon 23:07
can we talk about actual creative process for a second, because I think that one of the things that held me back probably whenever I was younger of thinking about approaching a story, especially maybe a novel in particular, like a fictional novel, and writing something along those lines, his idea of, I don't even know all the technical terms, like I need to figure out all my plot points and the character stories and backstories. And like, kind of really map it all out before I even start writing. And then I just recently read Stephen King's book on writing write books and realized, oh, there's another way like, you can just sit down and start writing and let the story unfold as you're writing it, you don't have to have it all figured out. And the same goes with creative entrepreneurship and running a business. You don't have to have it all figured out. It's great if you do, but if you don't, you can still run a business. And I think that it's really cool seeing other people's creative process. So I'm curious if NaNoWriMo provides any sort of structure, as far as like, here are the steps that you need to take for someone that might need structure? Or does it also provide flexibility for someone to incorporate their own creative process and maybe even share that within their community?

Grant Faulkner 24:14
Yeah, I think you hit on one big obstacles people can can stay in the planning stage for like a lifetime. And that can inhibit your writing. So we do we're not prescriptive, we don't have one approach. We always have this ongoing debate every year about whether people should plan their novels and how much they should plan versus pantsing their novels, which means you're just writing it from scratch and not don't have an outline or anything. What's that word again? pants dancing by the seat of your pants, writing,

Kathleen Shannon 24:42
like pulling someone's pants down?

Grant Faulkner 24:44
No.

Emily Thompson 24:47
That's also pantsing but it did.

Grant Faulkner 24:51
And I love we can we can think about that as a creative process. technique. Maybe. Yeah, maybe to overcome. Yeah, maybe over Coming writer's block, but a close eye saying, Oh, yeah, no, we have a lot of resources, where we create a conversation around this and help people discover what works for them. Some people really need to have it all mapped out, as you say. And so people get incredibly inhibited by that. Or, for instance, I write and I want to have a sense of mystery about what the story is about. And I'm pursuing that. And so an outline, I feel too hemmed in by that. But I kind of strike a balance. I'm somewhere in the middle between pantsing and planning, I like to explore my novel beforehand, as well. And now I've lost the third question, was there something I didn't answer, or Oh, the what we provide, we provide a lot of guidance, because NaNoWriMo is a creative experiment. And we want people to experiment every year. And I try to do something different every year as a result. But I think as creators, we all have to change. Well, I just think as creators, we shouldn't be static in our in our creative process. And so I always like to try something new every year just to shake it up. Because I think that that leads to, you know, usually great things, or maybe I just know, something I don't want to do next time.

Kathleen Shannon 26:01
Yeah, that's a cool idea for like, maybe even an established writer or someone who feels really comfortable in their writing process. And they have the discipline to get up every day to use NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to explore a new way of doing things,

Emily Thompson 26:14
I want to go back to what you were talking about a minute ago around attachment. But I think this is one of those really big obstacles that creatives have. And writers especially are for sure, maybe not especially around creating the thing and then being so attached to it that you can't let it you can't let it go beyond that, like first iteration of what you do. And this is something while Kathleen and I were writing the being boss book, I lost all attachment to any word I ever write good, I'm fine, you dragging anything, I don't care, it can go up.

Kathleen Shannon 26:47
But our editors were shocked when we're we're like whatever deleted.

Emily Thompson 26:54
And, but whenever we started the process, we were not that great. And I think also us doing it together helped us both get to that place so much faster. Do you have any any recommendations for people who who struggle with attachment to what it is that they're creating in a way that inhibits them from moving forward?

Grant Faulkner 27:14
Yeah, there, there are a lot of interesting things about the concept of attachment. One thing that came to mind when you first start talking about it, is that we have an idea that if you work more on one thing, that it becomes better and better and better. There was this interesting experiment, the pottery professor, he had one half of his students, they their whole grade was based on one one pot for the whole semester. And then the other half of the class it was based on how many pounds of pots they can create, how many parts they could create. And what he found was the people who were doing, like, creating more, they also created better parts than the ones who just looked at one for the whole time. And so I think that that there is like there's something about that kind of over attachment to that one piece and trying to make it perfect. So I think within that, you have to find a way to shift your attitude and and to play with it really like to experiment within this like concept or this product, or whatever it is that you've created. But I think your attitude is beautiful in the editing process, especially, you know, I think it's a tough balance to strike between when you're going to like literally fight for a word or a sentence. And when you're going to say hey, great, you know, like, just not have your ego involved. And so I think that's a that's a process of practice and self exploration, and that we never quite arrived, I will always have that moment where I where I get a little, I don't know, just a little peeved. And it's usually my ego getting paid. Like usually if I take a step back and be like, ah, who cares about that word, then it's all fine.

Emily Thompson 28:46
Right? It's all about choosing which battles you want to for sure, either either between you and yourself, right or you and then editor or someone who's proofreading for you or just giving it a look through. But I have found that that has also carried over into other parts of my life in ways that I don't hate.

Grant Faulkner 29:06
Yeah, I have a chapter I have a chapter in my book. That's called a whole cold thing slightly. And so it's it's about that I mean, it comes from I heard it on a Buddhist podcast. I'm not I'm sure who but it is about that non attachment. And I think that that there, you know, there's a lot of benefits to holding things slightly as a creator. It opens you yourself up more than when you're like really attached which kind of narrows your vision.

Kathleen Shannon 29:31
actually a really good point to plug your book. I've got it right. Great. So you wrote a book called pep talks for writers and this is 52 insights and actions to boost your creative Mojo await before we talk more about your book. Sorry, that was like the worst plug ever.

Grant Faulkner 29:51
We did. You did sound a little down. You sounded like you read a book. I

Kathleen Shannon 29:56
don't know. The book is great. And I have I couldn't eat And decide which exercises to like really dig into on the podcast, everyone get the book. It's incredible. It's super digestible. And it really is a pep talk. But what I was gonna ask you about NaNoWriMo is that, and I want to make sure I ask you before I forget, I've always seen the hashtag. But I didn't know where to go beyond that. So I wanted to talk about the actual platform and delivery of NaNoWriMo. And like, how does it work? Am I getting emails to my inbox and my signing up for a forum? Is it a Facebook group? Like, where does it live,

Grant Faulkner 30:32
all of the above and more. It's nanowrimo.org. That's the the URL. It's all free. We're nonprofit, we believe everyone should tell their story. So just sign up. And you'll be guided through the website, too. It's kind of like a social media site, you set up your profile, you enter the title of your novel, you give a summary of your novel, if you want to. You can list your favorite authors, all that kind of stuff. We have a vibrant forums on the site, that a million posts every November about every topic about writing under the sun. And then you can also like find your local region. And so if you're in, I don't know, if you're in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, there's probably a Tuscaloosa volunteer who's organizing live writing gatherings in the community, or there's probably a library doing that we have 1000 libraries who host writing gatherings and 1000 volunteers around the world who also host in person writing gatherings. And then yeah, we send out emails we send out inspirational pep talks from famous authors. Every year. We provide, you know, webcasts, a whole whole assortment of resources. Wonderful blog. So you can get discovered all on the website.

Kathleen Shannon 31:44
And High Five on pinpointing Emily's accent.

Grant Faulkner 31:48
Oh, are you from Alabama? I am. That must be why I said Tuscaloosa.

Emily Thompson 31:54
He must know me.

Grant Faulkner 31:58
Where I swear I was totally random. I'm from a town. I'm from a town called oskaloosa. And I think that was in my head. So

Kathleen Shannon 32:05
where's oskaloosa?

Grant Faulkner 32:06
It's an Iowa.

Emily Thompson 32:08
I don't sound like you're from Alabama.

Kathleen Shannon 32:14
Now, let me tell you, where are you out of now?

Grant Faulkner 32:16
I'm in Berkeley, California. That's where we're headquartered.

Kathleen Shannon 32:18
Oh, let's see, you had to go to Berkeley to become a capital W writer. Oh,

Grant Faulkner 32:23
yeah. I love writing in Iowa. Actually, it's one of my favorite places to write. And that's where I became a writer. So I became a capital W writer and I will.

Kathleen Shannon 32:34
Um, okay, so tell us what is one of your favorite exercises, you know, or maybe a handful of exercises from your book pep talks for writers.

Grant Faulkner 32:43
Yeah, some of them are very tangible, like a word sprint, you know, just just or the Pomodoro method, which is reading for a certain amount of time and just being focused and just produce. Some of them are more whimsical. Like, for instance, Ray Bradbury was when he first started out as a writer, he did this interesting thing where he would write down 20 nouns randomly. And then he would write these little tiny meditations or essays on them, that'd be like 200 words. And then the noun plus the little essay would create a story in his mind. And that's how he wrote some of his his best novels. I think also, though, there's, there are there are chapters on on on what I was talking about earlier about walking, you know, like being being a writer isn't just about being at the laptop, like, like, like thinking about ways that you can make your whole day more creative. So for instance, when I'm standing in line, waiting for a cup of coffee, what I almost always do as I get this huge impulse to like, grab my phone and look at it, even though I've come to realize that nine times out of 10, grabbing my phone and looking at it doesn't make me happy. It doesn't spur on any wonderful, creative thoughts. And so I've decided to, like accept that moment of boredom as a creative. You know, I think creativity happens from boredom. Because when your mind is bored, is searching for stimulus. And and it's an opportunity to observe other people eavesdrop on them. Just think about things. So I tried in the book. I mean, there are 52 essays, its purpose is to help people be creative year round, not just in November. So I tried to touch on a lot of different aspects of creativity and how you can approach every day and every week as a creator.

Emily Thompson 34:21
Yeah, I love how digestible it all is. flipping through it, I love the idea that and they all hit on, on particular pain points for not only writers but creatives, one of the ones that I love the most and when that like really hit home for me, was around thinking fast enough to outpace writer's block or creative block, whatever that may be. Because that's one of those that I find myself in a lot is I will sit and just sort of wait until I can't do it anymore. Yeah, so I love that there were so many little exercises and so many good like thought points. That in some way, you're going to hit on someone's need for a pep talk.

Grant Faulkner 35:05
I better I better. If I don't, I'll refund. I'll refund your book. How about that? out of 52 essays, if not one is pertinent? Yeah, but I think you hit on a crucial point, you know, too many people wait for inspiration is that it's this magical thing that Yeah, but inspiration strikes, at least with a big, bold Thunderbolt just so rarely, you know. I mean, I think you create inspiration. You sit down and you write and your words on the page, you know, like you said, you write one sentence, you create momentum for the next sentence, you know, and that momentum builds. And even though sometimes you don't recognize that create that inspiration, I think the most meaningful inspiration are those like little tiny, small moments that keep guiding you. It's not the big thunderbolts necessarily.

Kathleen Shannon 35:52
That's what I was about to say, I've never had a big Thunderbolts. I mean, even this podcast, which has been one of my most successful projects to date, which led to a book started with a really simple email, just like many emails I had received from Emily before, you know, it wasn't Yes, huge Thunderbolt of like, and here's what we're going to do, and here's what it's going to become. But even on the daily, we were talking about walking and walking is whenever I find those little buzzes of inspiration, all the time, whether or not I usually like listening to a podcast while I'm walking. But that gives me something to kind of riff on and new things to think about. But whenever I allow myself to get bored, and not listen to anything on a walk, I kind of drop into this meditative state. And I do find myself getting a little more creative. So even just the other day, I was on a walk, and this man was kind of walking a little bit aggressively down the other side of the street, and I thought, Oh, my gosh, does he have a knife? What if he had a knife? I would run into this house and knock on the door? And then maybe they would let me in? It's like a really sweet old couple. But what if they're actually the killers? And he was actually trying to like, I don't know, get revenge on them, because he's like, their long lost son anyway, it turned into a novel. Yeah, even a novel writer, you're ready to go,

Grant Faulkner 37:03
you're ready to go ready to jump on that hashtag?

Kathleen Shannon 37:06
Well, then I got too scared.

Emily Thompson 37:08
You're like worst case scenario, like drill downs that happened, because I've heard them live happened several times, it would make some incredible scary short stories, Kathleen,

Kathleen Shannon 37:19
maybe I'll send them to Stephen King. But when I was gonna ask you like one of the pieces of advice that I seem to see over and over again, from really successful creatives is to take risks and to be innovative and take risks. But I don't know what that means. So I'm going to shed some light on that, like, what does it mean to really take a risk? And maybe I'm risk averse, and have found a way to be creative around it. But I'm just trying to figure out like, how do you how do you be risky? Is it by dropping the F bomb in your novel? And you're kind of scared to do that? Or is it something else? Like what does it mean to take a risk? Or maybe you could even share insights on where you've taken risks in your work? Or maybe some of the writers participating in NaNoWriMo have taken risk? Yeah,

Grant Faulkner 38:07
well, I definitely think writing down my NaNoWriMo style, which is kind of improvisational writing, the improv will lead you to taking risks just naturally and writing fast and moving forward. But short of that, I always say I think I think the best stories, I think the stories we relate to the most, and the ones that are the most meaningful in our lives, are the ones when the author has been the most vulnerable, and really laid it out on the page and really opened up. I just read this quote by Scott Fitzgerald. He said, Let me think the best stories are the ones you're ashamed of, if you're ashamed of something, write it. So I don't know that that necessarily means dropping a lot of F bombs. Maybe that does, maybe that is taking risks for some people. But I think it's more about like asking yourself, what what is the truth that you want to write about? You know, and how are you going to write about it? And what's the best form to put that in? And so when you're asking about like, examples of authors, you know, William Faulkner wrote these crazy stream of consciousness novels, you know, that, that, that just touched on these all these deep personal layers and layers of history and layers of the history of the nation. And you know, that he took risks, you know, no one was Christ crying out and saying, hey, the next trend in novels of stream of consciousness, big messy stream of consciousness. And the same thing with like an author like Lydia Davis, who's the exact opposite, opposite, she writes for this extreme gravity, like, who would imagine that you could write a story in a sentence or two or a paragraph, but she does it in this very particular compelling way. So I think that those writers ask themselves about what is their truth and how to convey it and they created these different forms and took risks as a result. Does that help you don't look like I convinced you.

Kathleen Shannon 39:52
No, it does help. I've I've just been thinking a lot lately about the conversation around being original and taking risks and I think that sometimes that can alienate people. I'm just even getting started. I said,

Grant Faulkner 40:04
That's true. That's why I think like just that idea of what is your truth? And how do you want to express it, it's a little bit different than saying I'm going to be original. I think that idea of originality is perhaps overrated.

Kathleen Shannon 40:16
Oh, I was just going to say that I was listening to a podcast recently with Roxane Gay. And she just wrote that book hunger. And she was saying that she was kind of digging down into that what's true, and you know, really getting to the truth of things and that vulnerability, and it came around to writing about her body. And she's like, I can't write about that. And then she was like, Oh, shit, I gotta write about that. Just changing

Unknown Speaker 40:41
lives. Right? Yes.

Kathleen Shannon 40:45
Okay, Emily, do you have any questions?

Emily Thompson 40:48
I don't think so. I think I'm good for the moment.

Kathleen Shannon 40:50
Okay, um, I guess what I would like to ask you Next is, what are your top three tips for becoming a better writer? So even moving beyond the, let's get started phase? Let's do NaNoWriMo. Let's move fast and fail fast and write Fast and

Unknown Speaker 41:10
Slow down?

Kathleen Shannon 41:10
How do we actually become better? Right?

Grant Faulkner 41:13
You got to slow down sometime? Yeah, I've touched on a lot of them. You know, I mean, in a lot of them are kind of boring. Like, like you said, like, just show up. And right. People say that a lot. Read, read, read read. And people say that a lot. I think my favorite ones are the ones like be vulnerable. You know, I think you're going to connect with people. And I think people sometimes like they think being writers reading all those how to books, right? Like how to write dialogue, how to create plot, how to create suspense. Well, those are all great. And those are all crucial to a good story. But like I was saying earlier, being vulnerable, you can't teach that necessarily. You have to work on that in your writing and explore it. I think sometimes I've touched on this earlier, too. But playfulness, like why not take some pauses and being playful with your creative spirit with the words on the page, or just in a different way, like get away from your laptop and find different ways to be playful in life, and it will influence your writing. Let me think this

Kathleen Shannon 42:14
is like I haven't thought of a couple of questions about vulnerability and like writing a novel or writing fiction versus writing nonfiction. So in my mind, I can really see clearly how I would bring vulnerability to a memoir or even to a blog post, for example, but whenever it comes to writing a novel, do you think it's easier to be vulnerable? Because it's under the mask of a character? Or do you think it's harder? Because it's not a quote unquote, real?

Grant Faulkner 42:44
Yeah. Probably both, depending on the author. I think there is a fiction does allow you this wonderful shield where you're like, that's not me. That's my character. Or that's not my mom. That's my character. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 42:58
Your spouse family reads the book. Yeah, it's this me? No, no,

Grant Faulkner 43:01
no, that's Yeah. You think it's you? Because you're projecting? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I think I didn't see you. I think Annie Lamott said something like, if you don't want to be in my novel, then behave better. Right, yeah. So there's that. I mean, think I'm losing the string. Oh, but the being being vulnerable. You know, there's this rich history of authors also who have written through a persona. And they've chosen a persona because a persona is empowering them, and allows it allows them to go deeper than then then writing, you know, through the mask of who they really are. Because we all are writing through some sort of mask.

Kathleen Shannon 43:44
Yeah, that's even one of the tips in your book is to dress to be the writer that you want to be and so I love that like putting on my writing outfit, going into a coffee shop writing out fitzer cigarettes and whiskey

Grant Faulkner 43:57
on your way your cabin, what do you wear? Do you

Unknown Speaker 44:01
you know, you just wear your bathroom.

Grant Faulkner 44:05
That was a somewhat whimsical and playful chapter but I also think it's it's the metaphor speaks large because I think we oftentimes we dress in a certain conformist manner. And I think our writing side can be a more like you can do it more reverse style or with more flourish or do a bigger or just inhabit, you know, a different creature, a different persona. And so, yeah, dress like the writer you want to be, they've even done these studies where they'll put people in lab coats and have them walk around through their day. And just by having a lab coat on, they become you know, more more center writers, maybe, but they become they become more serious, they have a different gravity towards the things they do and that's because they're just wearing something different. So I think if you want to be whatever more whimsical in your writing, you might want to think about,

Kathleen Shannon 44:57
you know, I went went to a bar where scrubs that I got from a friend.

Unknown Speaker 45:03
Yeah. How did it change because

Kathleen Shannon 45:04
I wanted respect. And so we're all calling like me and a couple of my friends. Like we all got these scrubs into a bar and we were all calling each other doctor. Yeah. saying shit, like, give me a drinks that, but we really felt it. I can see like, I don't think that's a good it's exercises written just from Yeah,

Grant Faulkner 45:22
that's a good writing exercise I like that in particular, like, go to that bar in a different outfit.

Emily Thompson 45:34
There's a storyline there there somewhere most

Grant Faulkner 45:36
comfy shoes. Oh, there's a total storyline there i can i can write a novel about that in an afternoon.

Emily Thompson 45:42
Right, there you go. Um, I do want to go back to something you were talking a minute ago about one of one of your tips being more or less just like live your life and go out and do things. That wasn't one of the things whenever Kathleen and I were really diving into writing that we found was mandatory. For us to be able to crank anything of semi quality out was we actually had to make living our lives more of a priority than we do on any other day. Because the act of writing of getting those things out of you took so much more out of us that we had to refuel in ways that we don't usually have to refuel when we're just writing emails or designing a thing or what, or recording podcasts. But there was so much more intensity that went into writing that we had to be more intentional with actually living our lives so that we could write the word.

Kathleen Shannon 46:35
Yeah, really, I was just journaling about this yesterday that Okay, so I actually want to talk about journaling and the writing process to not to jump on your point, Emily, but it actually ties into your point where sometimes I feel like even as creative entrepreneurs taking this beyond writing, if you are you know, even writing, if you spend all your time doing the work, whatever your work looks like, it's hard to have, I don't want to say inspiration, because we talked about how inspiration comes whenever you show up. But it's hard to have any sort of fodder, I guess even or new ideas or new thoughts. So I'm curious, like I was journaling about this. And I'm like, man, my journal is so boring. It's like I got up, I did the work, I gave my kid a bath. We went to bed, and it's kind of that every single day. So I'm kind of curious, green grant, if you use journaling at all, or if any of your NaNoWriMo writers use journaling and how that kind of plays into the creative process, or even just living life like going on trips, even beyond just the daily walks, how that really like plays into the writing process.

Grant Faulkner 47:42
Yeah, I do feel going back to Emily's point that it's really important to live life and to think about how you want to live it and to have new experiences. I mean, travel, they've, you know, just going to another country experiencing the way that they live and how they live differently and their language. It they've again, they've done these studies that the people's minds open up and make different connections. And that's largely what creativity is about a juxtaposition of all these different thoughts at once, and then you kind of bring them together. So that's really important. However you want to define living life. I think that that's going to gonna help your creativity a lot. And then let me see journaling. I i've journaled since I was like seven years old, and the journalist taken many different forms and had many different needs. I actually like you find it much more challenging. Now that I'm a working parent. It's a much less riveting journal, I think much less, you know,

Kathleen Shannon 48:34
I don't really write it like not enough time to be anxious.

Grant Faulkner 48:36
Yeah. Yeah, I know, I feel so bad as a journaler, that I'm not living up to my X, you know, the necessary acts that whoever reads it will need but

Emily Thompson 48:45
not enough whiskey and cigarette I know.

Kathleen Shannon 48:47
And then I just bought David Sedaris is Yeah, which is like a journal. He's the

Grant Faulkner 48:52
David Sedaris is the ultimate role model of a journaler. Because he writes these amazing meticulous journal entries every day, and he has this really, you know, regular routine with it. And then he draws from those journal entries to write his essays or whatever he's writing. And so he'll write down like he'll when he does a book tour, he'll write down all these observations about the people who he signed book books for. So the journal is a tool for helping him to be attuned to the world. And that's ideally, the way I want my journal to be to is to be attuned to the external world, but also be attuned to my internal world. So I've been very inspired, inspired by David Sedaris, and want to practice journaling more like he does.

Kathleen Shannon 49:36
You know, and I think it's funny that we can even get inspiration, not from just the books that we read, and how we want to write and trying on different styles for size, but even trying on different journaling style. Yeah, for size.

Grant Faulkner 49:47
Absolutely. You know, I think the weird thing is like when you mentioned, I think you mentioned a reader of your journal, and I for so many years broke my journal without the idea that anyone would ever read it, you know, but I saved them all. I still have them all. But once I had kids, I realized that they might indeed read it. And it kind of became an inhibitor actually, because when I wrote I kept thinking of them someday reading it. Now they're old enough. And you know, they're using the occasional profanity and stuff. So you know, now now I'm liberated. I like this. These kids are emerging into adult they can handle this subject matter. You know, I'm joking. But yeah, who knows? Who knows, maybe they'll just throw them out. Maybe they'll come in after I've died and just clear out the closets and be like, what the hell?

Kathleen Shannon 50:30
You know, I've always thrown mine out there. I found one from whenever I was eight. And it was like the worst thing that could ever happen is getting a divorce. And I've been divorced like young it was I got it out of the way. Early starter marriage, no big deal. And just seeing my eight year old having anxiety over getting a divorce one day just kind of cracked me up. I wish I had saved more through high school and college even. But I always just find myself so embarrassed by them that I'll throw them away.

Grant Faulkner 50:57
I've never read a word of one of my journals. I would be Yeah, I would. I wouldn't want to be a writer. Yeah.

Kathleen Shannon 51:05
This is a question about books too. And I think another thing that makes them so intimidating is that they feel so permanent. And that was something that I definitely still struggle with, with our book, being bossed coming out in the spring, as did I say what I needed to say? Did I say it in a way that will not be misunderstood? Is it going to be helpful? And there? That's it? Like there's no second edition? Or there may be a second edition with like, a few tweaks, but like, this is it? It's in the world? It's not like a blog post that you can delete or a podcast episode, where the nature of it is conversational and fine. So what do you think about you know, even in your experience, as an author, the permanence of writing and how do you get over that?

Grant Faulkner 51:48
Yeah, it's funny, because I think I was just thinking about this today, coincidentally, about how, you know, myself as a writer, like I, I like to think why I'm improving right? Or that you just go through different stages in life so that that thing that you published 10 years ago, it's it was a very much younger version of myself, somebody who is a different self really. I think you just have to accept that that's all part of the creative journey, and there's a wonderfulness to it. I mean, so many authors, they're their first books are actually the best books are can be. So I don't have an answer. I mean, I think you have to live with that permanence.

Emily Thompson 52:23
When you just get out Yeah,

Grant Faulkner 52:24
just get over it. Yeah, go to your go to your cabin and drink that whiskey. And

Kathleen Shannon 52:30
I'll just be reading fighters Yeah.

Emily Thompson 52:37
there that can be your 53rd pep talk. Or if you want to do like second volume,

Grant Faulkner 52:42
we might do a whole over permanent Oh, yeah. I like that. That's good. I thought you're gonna mention the cabin. I was gonna say we can do a little you know, travel tour. Gosh, this will be for you in the MLA sighs Yeah, we'll just we'll just bring writers up to see Kathleen in the cabin. Look through the windows and kind of say this is a serve up some whiskey. Yeah, me

Unknown Speaker 53:01
whiskey and cigarettes.

Kathleen Shannon 53:03
Roll you a cigarette real writer tour.

Grant Faulkner 53:05
The real writers.

Unknown Speaker 53:08
Love it.

Emily Thompson 53:09
Great. Thank you so much for coming to chat with us about writing and the process. And then oh, Remo. I hope that I hope that all of our maybe not all of who actually have it all over. Oh, yeah. I decided to write some every single one of them for sure. Yeah,

Grant Faulkner 53:23
make a go right. Get a requirement before they listen to this podcast that they have to sign up. To tell their story.

Emily Thompson 53:29
We'll do actually we'll just put that in the beginning that if they complete the episode, they have to write period. Okay. Love it. Love it. We have one more question for you. And that is what makes you feel most boss.

Grant Faulkner 53:44
I I forget when I started this, maybe five, six years ago, I decided to do one thing that I would possibly feel embarrassed by every year. So it doesn't have to be anything extravagant. But it just has to be something that stretches me in an entirely new direction. So for instance, one year, I did an improv class 111 year I was a model in an art class. I thought about doing a stand up comedy routine one year at an open mic just because I think that that is like the toughest thing in the world to possibly do

Unknown Speaker 54:22
could talk about your stint as a live model. Exactly.

Grant Faulkner 54:25
Exactly. Exactly. living your

Emily Thompson 54:28
life to give yourself things to write and talk about exactly.

Grant Faulkner 54:31
But I think I think I think everyone should make themselves uncomfortable from time to time. And that's the main premise of it is that by being uncomfortable, especially in front of other people, you're you're learning something about yourself and you're actually building new skills to and most of this doesn't matter like your permanence like people forget. They don't really, they're not keeping score like you think they are.

Kathleen Shannon 54:55
So true. All right, where can people find more about NaNoWriMo And where can they find the book?

Grant Faulkner 55:01
Yeah, so nanowrimo.org just go there on the internet or search for NaNoWriMo. The book comes out October 3, it's going to be in hopefully all bookstores or most bookstores. Definitely on Amazon. Definitely on the Chronicle Books, website, Chronicle Books is the publisher. Yeah. And I'll be posting you know, things on my website, Grant Faulkner calm and on Twitter at grant Faulkner and a bunch of other places too. But

Kathleen Shannon 55:27
people, is there any relation to William Faulkner?

Grant Faulkner 55:33
No, there's a I think I was considering lunch I was considering. I was thinking Yes.

Kathleen Shannon 55:39
I'm the upgrade grants. Yeah.

Grant Faulkner 55:41
Well, I I, I've been asked that 1000s of times in my life. I'm sorry. No, no, no, no, no, you're not. You're not. It's fine. I just I told I told I decided that would give myself one opportunity to lie about it. And I

Emily Thompson 55:55
know you were wondering just now.

Grant Faulkner 55:58
The second time I, I. I lied. I lied once lied once on a red eye flight and an often backfired.

Kathleen Shannon 56:07
And was that to the mother of your children?

Grant Faulkner 56:09
No. That would have been funny, though. Long story, but yeah.

Emily Thompson 56:19
Gotcha. Oh, man.

Kathleen Shannon 56:22
Thank you so much for joining us on the show. It has been so fun talking to you.

Grant Faulkner 56:26
Likewise, a lot of fun. Thank you so much.

Emily Thompson 56:31
We have gotten so much amazing feedback over the years from listeners about how our podcast has helped them start to grow and uplevel their businesses. So we want to celebrate you. Here's the boss we're celebrating this week.

Kathleen Shannon 56:44
Hi, I'm Jenny. And I'm Sophie webbing boss. We're branding and content strategist and the cofounders of print marketing. This week, we're celebrating our team. We've been training Kim, Rachel Angie Reese the past few months. And now we're excited to be at a point where they are managing the work and our clients while we're the team meeting. only take a vacation. It feels to invest in talented people and supportive and business so we can focus on the big picture. Take care of ourselves and run the business we want. Yay. If you're feeling Boston when to submit your own boss moment or when go to WWW dot being boss club slash I am being boss. This episode of being boss was brought to you by fresh books cloud accounting, thank you to fresh books for sponsoring us and you guys can try it for free by going to fresh books comm slash being boss. Thank you so much to our team and sponsors who make being boss possible. Our sound engineer and web developer Corey winter. Our editorial director and content manager Caitlin brain, our community manager and social media director Sharon lukey. And are being countered David Austin, with support from braid creative and indicia biography.

Emily Thompson 58:01
Do the work. Be boss, and we'll see you next week.