I’ve always been fascinated with the power of words.
The art and joys of writing – that’s what so many great people dedicated their lives to. And beautiful content has come out of their hard work. Because that’s what the craft is, and it’s supposed to be difficult.
It’s not just the process of writing, but also the reading, thinking, doing it when you don’t feel like it, finding the right words and presenting them in a particular way, and learning and growing as you go.
But once you find a part of you that enjoys it, you fall in love with it. And you can never stop.
As Robert Hass says, “It’s hell writing and it’s hell not writing. The only tolerable state is having just written.”
The second thing that captivates me after writing itself is the person behind it. After all, it’s all about him. We’re in his head when reading. We’re getting a glimpse of his deepest desires, pains and pleasures, no matter the way he’s telling the story.
Every person is a universe, but every writer is something even more complex. And I love hearing their opinion on all that, learning how they got there, where their words come from, how they fight the urges and struggles, and how they feels about all this.
Because the connection between a writer and his craft is like no other. And although no two authors are alike, they have more in common than they’ll ever admit.
I had the chance to connect with such a person recently. One that’s been doing it for over 50 years. And to this day takes it as seriously and dedicates a lot of time and energy to it.
Ron Evans is a husband, father and grandfather from Texas, with a BA in English Literature and a degree in Theology. He was a teacher in English and Spanish, and then had a long career as a Senior Editor and Management Systems Specialist in the aerospace industry. He retired in 2000.
And he’s been a writer, mainly a haiku poet, all along. And as such – with a lot of experience – he’s learned a thing or two about the craft.
He doesn’t believe in inspiration, writing rituals and writer’s block, and says that what makes him get out of bed is a long-established habit, his wife and curiosity to see what the day will bring.
On his blog there are roughly 3000 haikus (that includes selected haiku he’s written since 1996, others short forms of poetry, and articles on haiku and how to write it).
I was really interested in the way he does his writing, how the process goes, how he’s changed after having written so much and what advice he can give.
So I just asked him.
Here are his answers:
Interview with haiku poet Ron Evans
1. How did you start writing poetry?
I’m really struggling with this one, because I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing poetry of some kind and reading it aloud to my family.
They were usually short and funny since the only payment was their laughter. I guess that’s what hooked me – the laughter. I always liked the spotlight, and poetry gave me my first stage.
2. What inspires you to write?
I take “inspire” to mean “give an impetus,” almost a religious prodding from some higher power, usually referred to as a Muse. I don’t believe in any of that.
I believe in learning one’s craft and the hard work of writing and editing consistently day after day, health permitting.
3. Does writing come from the inside?
Yes. Have you tried writing from the outside?
Writing is from one’s mind, not the soul or spirit. I understand the other viewpoints but they seem designed to justify laziness. “I’m not writing today…I don’t feel it in my heart.” For me that’s just an excuse.
4. Is writing a habit?
Yes — a customary or usual activity. But No — as in He has a drug habit. We have writing; writing doesn’t have us.
5. What about being a writer? Is it an inner state, a hobby a lifestyle, a profession, or else?
There’s no one correct answer for everyone who writes. There are those who have to be in some emotionally-charged state in order to write.
There are those who approach writing as a hobby, a way to relax or pass the time of day.
“Lifestyle” I’m not so sure about because of some of the negative connotations the word has assumed in the past several years. “They are in the lifestyle — she is the Dom and he is her sub.”
There ARE professional writers but there are very few who can support themselves by their writing alone. And there is a never-ending throng of new writers convinced they can bring home big bucks writing.
The reality will always be that they can make more money working for Walmart.
There are many reasons to be a writer. Financial success isn’t one of them.
6. What have you learned from writing?
That I am a haiku poet. Everything else I already knew.
7. Do you have any writing rituals?
No. Except I always enter my writing area with both feet on the ground, alternately.
Rituals seem like a belief in magic. I believe in hard work and technique.
8. Do you write in the morning or at night?
I’m retired, so my answer won’t apply to most.
I write off and on all day, morning included.
I intersperse “serial naps” between my working spurts during the day. Writing at night is a mixed bag but I usually write until I’m exhausted.
Frequent breaks are often recommended, but they don’t work for me. When airline pilots take a break, there is a copilot to take over in the interim. I don’t have a copilot. Sometimes I wish I did. At 73, it takes longer to recuperate from a 12-15 hour work shift! *easy smile*
9. Do you feel a little weird, or disappointed in yourself, when you haven’t written for a long time?
No. It’s a part of the job description that I accepted a long time ago.
The only time I’ve felt weird lately is when I took my first (and last!) sip of Japanese sake,a rice wine tasting a little like black refrigerator mold! Don’t ask how I know!
10. How has your writing changed over the years?
I write less and edit more.
The open secret of good writing is excellent editing.
I was a professional editor for over 30 years, so my answer shouldn’t be too surprising! Try it! It’s good for you!
11. What’s your favorite topic to write about?
In haiku, we write about nature and man’s relationship to nature. In addition, I write about everything else! It’s not quite as boring to the reader that way.
12. What is so special about haiku?
The concision it requires.
Haiku poets only have a few syllables to paint a word picture (an image or two), suggest a metaphor, teach a lesson, or all of these. T
hat’s not easy, but it’s fun and challenging. That’s what makes it special for me.
Too often the world is all about instant gratification. Don’t become a haiku poet if that’s what you want.
13. Do you feel empty (in a good way) when you’ve been writing for hours?
That depends on how long it has been since my last pottie break! *laughter*
If that was a serious question, the answer is “No.”
I always feel good after hours of writing, because I know there is someone out there who will meet the Universe up close and personal in my writings because I gave them a map.
14. Is there such thing as writer’s block?
Absolutely not. There are days where writing is tortuous, agonizing work. On other days -a playful walk in the park.
Good writers accept this and don’t fall back on some false concept of being “blocked.”
Writer’s block is for blockheads. DON’T be one!
15. Has writing for so many years made you a better person?
No, writing for fifty years hasn’t made me a better person.
Not being able to do the stupid, sleazy, dangerously indulgent things I did BEFORE I got old – THAT’S what has made me a better person…I think!
16. Is a life lived with daily doses of creativity and passion a happier, more peaceful and meaningful way of living?
It CAN be if a person has determined that he wants that kind of life. But it’s not automatic.
You have to MAKE your life happier, meaningful, and peaceful and determine not to be an unhappy person. It’s up to each person.
17. Now you’re not just writing haiku, but teaching others how to do it. Tell us more about that.
I’ve wanted for quite some time to add a teaching component to my blog. I’m just now figuring out how to do that in actual practice.
One of the best ways, of course, is by example —post an original haiku and then one or more revisions.
Then, readers of my blog will see what is good and what is better and learn to choose the better.
18. What does one need in order to write enough content for a book? (It’s not just a few bursts of inspiration…)
That’s a difficult question since writing isn’t a “one size fits all” shoe.
The “amount” (words, pages) depends on the type of writing (genre – Scifi, romance etc) and the marketplace (publisher/buyers).
Adolescent love novels are typically shorter; Scifi novels can range from 200 pages to thousands.
Learning how to write is step one, however. The amount of content isn’t that important, though, if you can tell a good story in an interesting way. Learn how to write “page-turners,” and you’ll never want for readers.
In novels, put your main character in trouble immediately.
Spend the rest of the chapter helping him survive his difficulties. Put him in trouble again at the very end of the chapter. Help him solve his problems you introduced in the preceding chapter.
Repeat as necessary until the end when all problems are solved. Easy! Right?!
19. What about reading? How often do you read and what?
Haiku, of course. And then, everything except Modern Romance.
I’m addicted to Sherlock Holmes and have been since I was eight or nine years old.
I read non-haiku poetry (favorites – Kenneth Rexroth, Dylan Thomas, Seamus Heaney, Billy Collins, Ted Kooser, A. E. Housman, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Jane Kenyon, Emily Dickinson, and dozens more. Discovering new female poets all the time.)
Sci-fi is a sentimental favorite but I don’t read it as much now since Robert Heinlein passed away. For me, Heinlein IS scifi…with no close contender in my
How often do I read? Oh…I don’t know. How often do you breathe?
Probably 3-4 hours a day. Mostly between naps! I’m old!
20.What are the 3 books that have influenced you the most?
Whew! That’s a tough one. But I won’t go for the easy answer and say piously “The Holy Bible.” – everyone says that!
I suppose “Starlight Nights” by Leslie Peltier (read fifteen times since 2002), all the Sherlock novels and short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (read them all beginning when I was nine or ten), and R. H. Blyth’s 6-vol set (“Haiku”).
21. What advice can you give to newbie poets?
Get a real job! Poetry books may be high in carbohydrates but they taste crappy!
If you don’t get a real job, you’ll end up eating your words! *hehe*
Learn your craft. Just because it rhymes doesn’t make it poetry.
And just because it’s poetry, doesn’t make it good.
Read widely, not just poetry. Read voraciously. If you don’t love to read, you’ll never be happy as a poet. And the world has enough “pseudo poets” already.
Never join a poetry club. There’s always people there who write better than you and you will end up trying to imitate them…or kill them! Either way will lead to no good end!
Never read your poetry aloud to family or friends. They will tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to hear, and your poetry will never improve.
Write only when you want to, when you don’t want to, and when you’re so sleepy you can’t tell the difference.
(May I turn off my mic, now? I need to take a nap! *g*)
I hope you enjoyed the interview and learned a thing or two.
If you want to read his work or connect with him, here’s where to stop by:
His profile on Smashwords
His book “The Complete Guide to Writing Haiku” – it teaches you everything you need to know about haiku – basic concepts, rules and essentials. And it’s perfect for beginners not knowing where to start – they’ll learn how to listen to their inner voice and how to actually sit down and create haiku.