Kaiya Hart on Writing and Inspiration

1) A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?

I’m very inept socially. To the point where I have a problem speaking to people I don’t know. However, I think it is really dependent on the person. Some authors just love being around people so much that they want to write about it.

2) Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?

I think that all authors should have a working knowledge of grammar. I believe that, when you are writing fiction, sometimes being overly concerned with being grammatically correct can actually stand in the way of certain characters. In dialogue, being more concerned with grammar than personality can ruin the story. However, basic mistakes in grammar that don’t add something to the book are just as bad and can shatter the reader’s enjoyment when they stumble over it. I am talking about things like your and you’re, of course. That is a good way to lose your reader’s respect and, at that point, they might just stop reading altogether.

3) What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

I have always loved handwriting everything first. I have hundreds of notebooks. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to switch to a computer. I have this little Macbook and it is lighter than any of my notebooks. The reason I’m trying to switch is because I can type way faster than I can write with a pen and, sometimes, catching an idea is all about speed.

4) When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

When I was nineteen, my best friend got me to start writing poetry with her. Then we discovered Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down The Bones and that was it. I was hooked.

5) What inspires you to write?

Life in general, other books, I do this thing I call feeding the muse and sit for days just reading. I also go to places where there are a lot of people and just listen and pay attention to the way people are with each other. Sometimes I make up stories about them in my head.

6) How often do you write?

Every day, or as close to that as I can get. I don’t just force myself into it, though. I have a schedule I follow and a routine that gets me in the head space for it, but, if I can’t get in the writing mood, I’ll edit something small or read something I’ve already finished to get myself going. If that fails I pull out one of Natalie Goldberg’s books and do some of the exercises.

7) How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?

It is always a little tough for me. I am great for procrastinating, which is why I have a schedule and a set of rules I follow. Once I get sat down, though, it is easier to keep at it than to stop. I love what I do, I just have to remind myself of that on a daily basis.

8) Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

When I’m having a hard time writing, I have a word goal. I try to do at least 1000 words per day. I keep a little planner and I write down my words at the end of the day, then count up the words at the end of the week and it reminds me that even small drops in a bucket will add up over time. I also write little things in there, like inspirational quotes, motivations, statements of gratitude, anything to keep me going, really.

9) Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I cannot do a plot. Not at first, anyway. I am getting better about going back, once the story is on paper, and figuring out the plot and getting the whole thing smoother. The first time through, though, is just finding the personality of the book and seeing what the story looks like.

10) What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Actually sitting down and doing it. Getting in that head space can be hard to manage. I have done a lot of experimenting to figure out what works. I’m really consistent, now, but for the longest time I would struggle just to sit down and start.

11) Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

I have had it a lot. It used to be like this chronic sickness. No matter what I did, it just kept coming back, each time worse than the time before. My longest bout was nearly a full year long. That was when I really started trying to figure out what made it so hard for me to do something that I love so much. That was when I came up with something I call Write Time and the eight rules I apply to almost every day.

12) Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?

Write. I’ve got the rules and the routine and all of that, but the really crucial part is to get sat down and get yourself writing. I’ve been doing this for twenty years and I’ve spent a good deal of that time suffering from writer’s block, so knowing how to get past it is important. I sit down and I edit something or I’ll do a full on stream of consciousness page. I mean, the worst imaginable things come out. But, in the end, the block always breaks down. Also, I read a lot. I’ve found that, when I stop reading, my writing dries up.

13) Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I read massive amounts. When I was younger, my parents used to complain because they would buy me a book at the bookstore and before we even got home, I was done with it. That has continued throughout my life. I have to be really careful in a bookstore; some girls have a weakness for shoes, but I’m all about the books. I can completely forget my bank balance and bills if I don’t pay attention and come out with stacks of books. My favorite authors are Elizabeth Gilbert, Stephen King, and Peter S. Beagle, but I read as many authors as I can.

14) Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?

Yes, actually. I have this trilogy that has become something of a series. It is a classic example of over writing; I was about twenty-two when I began it and I wrote it and then rewrote it, then rewrote it again. I’m just now getting it out there and I have struggled so much with the final books because I’ve written it into the ground. I’ve had to let it go for a while, then re-read the released books so I could rediscover the story and figure out where I want it to go. The plus side to this is that I am falling in love with it again, but I would never do this to another story.

15) Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?

No. And that doesn’t mean I don’t value their thoughts. If they message me personally, I’m glad to talk, so long as they aren’t trying to get me to tell them things like who lives and who dies. I don’t put up with negativity in my inbox either; constructive criticism is welcome, but cruelty just for the sake of it will be deleted. I don’t read the public talk, though. I’ve found that the worst thing I can do to myself is look at a review. If it is a good review, great, but if it is bad, then it is about something I no longer have any control over. Why torture myself? I want people to like what I write, of course, but, in the end, they can’t help me write it and, after it is all said and done, what is the point of looking back and thinking ‘I should have’ instead of letting it go and moving on to the next story? I can’t write if I have voices in my head trying to tell me what would make this person or that one happy.

16) Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?

Stop waiting for someone to give you permission and stop worrying about what other people think.

17) Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

Do it. Don’t wait. There will never be a better time than right now. Dreams can only come true if you go after them.

18) Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?

Yes. I was a horrible student. I didn’t want to learn to read and I nearly got held back in the second grade because of it. So I had this amazing teacher for summer school who started talking to me about Laura Wilder. She would read little bits of the Little House on the Prairie books to me. Eventually, I was so desperate to know what happened that I worked really hard to learn how to read and tore through Little House in the Big Woods. Once I started, I devoured everything. It turned out that the short books with lots of pictures just didn’t engage my imagination enough.

19) Do you read any of your own work?

Yes, actually. At the risk of sounding stuck on myself, I love a lot of my characters. To me, they aren’t really my creations. They just walk into my head one day and refuse to leave. I like to go back and visit them. Sometimes I catch a mistake or I see a typo that got missed and have a total clash of reader/writer, but I still like to visit my own stories.

20) Do your novels carry a message?

Oh yes. Every good book ought to have a message. I mean, it doesn’t have to be something preachy, but there should be something there, preferably something honest that makes us look a little harder at ourselves, or something that can give us joy. I don’t actively sit around thinking about the message I want to deliver; the story and characters do that on their own.

21) Are there any books that you are currently reading and why?

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo. Oh my goodness, it is just beautiful. The language, the story, it is all just really rich. Books like this one remind me of why I wanted to write in the first place.

22) Who are your books mostly dedicated to?

There are a lot of people that help me with my writing. People who have been there or who have encouraged me to continue, but the person I always think of first, even if he isn’t on the dedication page every time, is my dad. He told me to be a writer before anyone else. When I said I wanted to write, he was the first to encourage me. Right up to the day he died, he was rooting for me.

23) It is often believed that almost all writers have had their hearts broken at some point in time, does that remain true for you as well?

I think everyone gets their heart broken. It is part of life. I think writers just tend to feel things more because we live twice. Once in reality and again when we put it on paper. I have had my heart broken often and all that means to me was that I loved something more than I loved myself and then lost it. I’ve lost horses, dogs, cats, and people, most of them to death. It never gets any easier, but I’m so glad to have had those souls in my life. A lot of them were inspirations to me and they are the reason I am the way I am.

24) Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?

Oh yeah. I believe in the muse. There is a big difference in the way I write when I’m just shifting things around and when I’m inspired. I’ve come to understand this aspect of writing a lot better, especially in the past year. I’ve learned to feed my muse and keep her happy which makes my writing go so much smoother. Elizabeth Gilbert does this Ted Talk on the subject and it is well worth watching. I am particularly fond of the part where she talks about how people used to believe that artists had this outside entity helping them because it doesn’t always feel like me doing the work. Sometimes it feels like I’m just jotting down someone else’s ideas.

25) Is it true that anyone can be a writer?

I believe that anyone who wants to be a writer can be. If you want something badly enough, you are going to find a way to do it and never mind all the people trying to say you can’t. I’m a big believer that the word ‘can’t’ should be used sparingly in any life. We make our own realities. If you want to be a writer, then be a writer. There should be more writers in the world. You don’t have to be born with a secret birthmark or invited with some gilded letter of invitation. If you want to write, sit down and do it. And if you’re bad at it, that’s okay, you have to start somewhere. Keep practicing. You’ll get better.