When did you first decide writing would be your career or hobby – did you find writing, or did writing find you?
Kate: I’d been a bookworm since the day I learned to read, so the idea of one day writing the stories I loved took early. In fact, the first time I remember expressing the desire to write was in fifth grade. When asked for a school project what I wanted to be, I answered: “a writer, but also a doctor or lawyer or something to make money.” Sadly, even at age 11, I’d already been programmed with the idea that writing, especially fiction, was not a lucrative career. I’d tuned into the fact that while I loved the fruit of their labors, writers’ work was not highly respected in our world. Especially when you do well in school, teachers and adults definitely groom you toward high-status, high-paying jobs rather than encouraging the daydreaming necessary to be a writer. Honestly, I still deal with some of that emotional friction today, sometimes feeling guilty or gullible when my career in writing makes my life more difficult and less stable. When that feeling returns, I remind myself that I would be incredibly unhappy as a lawyer or a doctor, even if my bank account was more comfortable.
What is it that inspires you?
Kate: At the root, I find language itself inspiring. I love reading unexpected and lovely turns of phrase, those creative combinations of words that create unexpected fireworks of pleasure in your mind. I have a strong literary voice in my fiction because I cannot separate a story from the way it’s told. In addition to language, I’m also inspired by strong voices and personalities. Most of my longer works are inspired by a single phrase voiced by an unknown character that grabbed my attention. I have to find out who would say, think, or witness such a thing, and then I dive deep inside that stranger’s head to understand their voice from the inside out. For me, every story is an opportunity to live inside another person, to live another life on paper.
What is more challenging to write: an assigned piece, or a creation of your own?
Kate: Absolutely, an assigned piece is easier! I much prefer completing a limited assignment to creating a project with only a blank slate and my brain as limitations, my brain being less trustworthy than I’d prefer on some days. Creativity takes a lot of mental effort for me—especially when it comes to my fiction, which I hold far too close to my heart and self-worth than is healthy. Don’t worry, I work that fear out in therapy! However, I’ve also accepted that I do not like writing fiction full time. I enjoy taking freelance assignments, such as the features I write for Boulder Magazine and other small publications. Through such assigned projects, I not only make some income to support my fiction, they also allow me to balance my work load so I feel useful, even when my fiction is difficult or even impossible.
For similar reasons, I also enjoy writing fiction using exercises and prompts rather than from a blank page. Such prompts provide just enough raw material that I can more easily launch an idea, much like chefs on reality shows can be more inspired by the random ingredients provided for challenges than they are with unlimited ingredients in their home kitchens. As an example, my writing group, 30th Street Fiction, is publishing their third anthology this fall, and each book has been focused on a specific word or idea—a very basic writing prompt. The first theme was “proof,” the second “flight,” and the upcoming third is “broken.” I love how our group takes the limitations of the exercise in such unexpected directions. We all love the challenge of these themed stories.
Is there such a thing as writer’s block?
Kate: Oh, f@$&, yes! Again, my fiction comes from a place of deep vulnerability and exploration, which means it’s not always easy and it doesn’t always flow. Since my characters often appear to me out of the blue, I need to learn about them, usually by writing draft after bad draft, trying different actions on them like different outfits. Unlike many writers, I often don’t know what they’re going to do next! Rather than panic, though, I again embrace balance. I work on freelance assignments or volunteer work when I’m blocked on my stories, and I also throw myself into my yoga teaching. Yoga, in particular, has proven to be a physical complement to the intensely mental act of writing, and particularly when teaching, I’m reminded that I have more to give this world than just my fiction.