Member Spotlight: JoeAnn Hart
September 19, 2023
Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing is a personal journey in a public space, right on the page. Writing and reading is how we, a highly social species, share our thoughts and experience in order to learn, connect, and develop empathy for each other and the natural world. We cannot save the planet and its fragile inhabitants, including ourselves, if we do not love it madly. The written word can do all that.
What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? I have to turn away from my own writing by getting out of my own head and into someone else’s. Nature and science books will open my mind to new experiences and ideas. Personal narratives can do that too, like Dwellings by Linda Hogan, or May Sarton’s journals, authors who are trying to figure out the problems of being alive. A good magazine like the Sun or Orion will let me explore many perspectives and ideas, and have beautiful artwork and photography. A trip to a museum (the place of the muse) will activate non-verbal parts of my brain and help stir images that might just show up on the page later. And of course, going outside will refresh me for writing, checking in with the livestock or getting on my hands and knees in the garden. Good old dirt. The natural world refuels.
What is your favorite time to write? Mornings are my time. I still have a dreamy brain from sleep, and I’m not yet caught up in all the problems of the world, both personal and global. It can all wait.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? Stop criticizing your writing as you write. Criticism is for later, during the editing process. For first drafts especially, just let the mind go where it wants and don’t try to micro-manage your characters, they have minds of their own. I got this advice when I first started writing, and it was liberating to separate writing from editing. I had no idea.
What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? As E.L. Doctorow said, history tells you what happened, fiction tells you what it felt like. We are at a critical point in the history of our species, the point where we are actually making the planet unlivable. We need to keep writing about what that feels like, over and over, to instill the wonder, the awe, and the grief, in the hope that our words will create change in the reader’s mind. When minds change, our world can change. It’s a big hope.
JoeAnn Hart’s Highwire Act & Other Tales of Survival is out now with Black Lawrence Press.