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Member Spotlight: Jeffrey Dale Lofton

author Jeffrey Lofton and an image of his book Red Clay Suzie

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing is a storytelling medium, not unlike programmatic instrumental music, theater, or the visual arts from cave drawings to religious iconography to abstract impressionism. We have been telling stories since the beginning of recorded time. It’s how we connect and pass down and reveal. And I love being part of that tradition. It is important to the world for its healing properties, its ability to incite, its penchant to entertain, its power to break open the human heart, and enrich our minds.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? Reading voraciously fuels the engine of my creativity. I consume a book every two weeks or so—novels, memoirs, poetry, essays, biographies, the classics and the time-untested—whatever catches my eye in the moment. That chief delight notwithstanding, if I feel blocked, I write, write as a discipline. I write without the copy editor who lives inside my head. It’s like jump starting that engine.

What is your favorite time to write? My writing schedule is largely dictated by my work at the Library of Congress; that comes first. When I go to my library office in the shadow of the Capitol I tend to write on my mobile telephone on the subway, thumbs flying and earplugs in place. I repeat the exercise going home. Sometimes that’s enough for a day, and sometimes pausing only for dinner I continue writing well into the evening, much to the dismay of my partner and our toy poodle Petunia.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? The journey from much-poured-over manuscript to published work is long and ridden with road blocks and detours. You’ll encounter naysayers along the way, but never give in to those who would have you believe that your story is not worth telling. Writing defines the long game; stay put and write.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? In our deeply divided world beset by political vitriol, tribalism, the erosion of fact and its sibling truth, and a popular culture that is coarse and without nuance, writers—storytellers—offer escape. And as they entertain, they can remind us what binds us together: shared human longings and fears and hopes. That power to heal, even if it’s an ephemeral cleansing of sorts, makes us writers vital and shining pieces in the mosaic of society and the world. What could be more exciting? I haven’t found it.

Jeffrey Dale Lofton’s Red Clay Suzie is out now with Post Hill Press.