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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Mark I. Pinsky

author Mark Pinsky smiling at the camera and a photo of his book Drifting Into Darkness

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Beginning in the 1960s, while attending Duke University, I came to see writing as a supplement and complement to political action. For me, the activist progression ran from support for civil rights and racial justice, anti-war and anti-imperialist battles to gender equality, LGBT rights, economic justice, etc. For more than 50 years, in journalism, in books, and in the streets, this has been my North Star. No apologies.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? I never tried fiction — that always seemed to me to be for the A students, among whom I never counted myself. Since I was always writing “about” something, I have never been afflicted by writer’s block. Sometimes a lack of imagination can be a benefit.

What is your favorite time to write? These days, I’m down to 2-3 productive hours daily, from late morning to early afternoon. This is a change from daily newspaper days, when it was all day an often into the evening. With a breaking story, I can still answer the fire bell and write however long it takes to file.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? I tend to give advice, rather than take it. Mine is: If you can–and it’s not always possible–write about subjects that are interesting or important to you, both if possible, rarely if neither. The first piece of advice I have given my college students is what I have come to call “The Roommate Rule.” That is, imagine going to a campus event, and then returning to your dorm room. If your roommate asks you what happened, your brain will automatically report in the order of interest and importance, rather than a chronology. Magic!

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? At my age, still being able to do it. When I do a free lance piece on a breaking story, I reflect on how lucky I have been in my career choice. I am doing at 75 what I was doing at 25. True, not as often and not as quickly as when I was 25 (like a lot of things). Once I joked (until it stopped being a joke) that the good thing about journalism (and writing generally) is that as long as you were clear-headed, and had enough strength in your fingertips to hit the keyboard, you could keep going.

Mark I. Pinsky’s Drifting Into Darkness: Murders, Madness, Suicide, and a Death “Under Suspicious Circumstances” is out May 24 with ‎NewSouth Books.