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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Lawrence Grobel

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? I’ve been a writer since I began submitting poems to major magazines at the age of 13. None were accepted, but the rejections just strengthened by resolve. It’s importance is simple: it’s the way I learn what I think, what I know, and what I don’t know. I can’t imagine a world without the written word. Articles and books feed our minds and souls. We learn from writers and we build upon their words. I was fortunate to receive recognition from a major newspaper for an essay I wrote when I was 15. Almost 60 years later, I’m proud to say that I’ve been able to make a living for myself and my family from writing about things that have held my interest. And these days, I feel like I’m just getting started!

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? The best way to cure writer’s block is to ignore it. If you sit down at your desk and start writing, whether it be an email, a letter, a journal entry, or the start of an article, poem, or work of fiction, then treat it as a note to yourself. Just start. Don’t think about other people reading it. Think about pleasing yourself. And remember, most writing is rewriting. As Eliot once wrote, in your end is your beginning.

What is your favorite time to write? I usually get started around 9:00 a.m. and can work to 4:00 or 5:00 pm. It really depends on what I’m working on, If it’s a deadline, then I’ll work into the night. If it’s a short story, I often take a break, go for a walk around my canyon, and inevitably new ideas come to me.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? I have two: the first was when I walked into the novelist Bernard Wolfe’s office when I was an undergrad at UCLA in the ’60s. I told him I wanted to work independently with him and that I had an idea for a novel. He listened, then said, “Why don’t you write a hundred pages, see if it works. If it doesn’t, fuck it.” What he was telling me was that you need to really work to be a writer, and sometimes it takes a hundred pages to find your beginning. The other piece of advice was a comment by John Huston. When I was working on his family’s biography (The Hustons) I ran into a problem trying to understand how Huston treated Montgomery Clift in a scene for The Misfits. I spoke to the publicist (Max Youngstein), the writer (Arthur Miller), the assistant director (Tommy Shaw), the script woman (Angela Allen), and two others. Each told me a completely different story. So I went to Huston and told him about these different versions and asked what he remembered. He looked at me and, in his deep, God-like voice, he said, “Go with the best story, Larry. Always go with the best story.” I’ve never forgotten that.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? Writing hasn’t changed for me over the years, but the outlets have. Most of my professional life I wrote for national magazines and made a decent living. The books were a bonus, though sometimes I had to curtail the magazine assignments when I had a book to write. I was used to seeing my byline in magazines like Playboy, Rolling Stone, Premiere, Movieline, Reader’s Digest, Details, etc. And in newspapers from N.Y. to L.A. But that’s now in the past. I don’t get many bylines because many of the publications are gone, or stopped paying decently. But I’ve been writing more than ever: a memoir, novels, short stories, collections of past pieces, and I can’t stop. I never considered myself a short story writer, but I wrote a book of stories two years ago, and when the pandemic came, I found stories were the way to keep me sane, to occupy my time, and to challenge me. I have a new book of stories just out, and though I thought I would turn to a novel I want to write, I just finished my tenth new story, so I assume I’ll write 20 more and put out a third book of stories. I’m smiling when I write this, so I guess what excites me about being a writer is being a writer!

Lawrence Grobel’s Schemers, Dreamers, Cheaters, Believers is out now.