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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Melissa Gowdy Baldwin

author Melissa Baldwin and an image of her book the Marriage Wars

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing is important to me because it allows me to make sense of the world around me. It’s been a powerful tool in processing the highs and lows of life. My debut novel was my way of processing social politics around marriage, and eventually the start of the ending of my own marriage. Without writing, I wouldn’t have been able to express my thoughts and feelings and ultimately, making a better choice for my life. I teach English and try to impress on my students how important writing is as a medium to connect to others – whether that is through a simple email or a full-length novel – writing is what brings us together across all aspects of life.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? First, writer’s block can just be the worst sometimes. It heightens all of the imposter syndrome insecurities that float viciously though our author minds. I have three ways to undo writer’s block: 1) Write – just write anything. Start with looking at the room around you and make observations of what you’re seeing, feeling, smelling, hearing, touching. Then make something in that room come to life – either a piece of furniture or put someone in that room and have them evoke some sort of emotion. 2) Listen to music. Go to your music app and select a suggested playlist and then start writing. For example, I had writer’s block a bit ago and I went to my Amazon app and found “Sexy Country” – something I would not normally listen to, but it proved to be a great to get me writing again and actually influenced a few chapters of my most recent project. 3) Get out of your house – either in nature (a park, greenbelt, hike) or somewhere in public like a coffee shop or some other public space. Start listening to the stories around you, make observations of the people – where are they going? What just happened in their life before you saw them? What will happen next? For this one, I usually just use pen and paper to jot down notes, which eventually helps me get back at once I am home and back on my computer.

What is your favorite time to write? I am an early morning to early afternoon writer. I have had to make adjustments over the years because of my teaching career, motherhood, and an active social life, but my best work comes from early in the day. I think by late afternoon / evening my creativity has been expended on so many other things, that if I don’t capture the creativity in the morning, it can be lost. Now, again, I have had to adjust with the other elements of my life…which is where some of the writer’s block strategies come into play.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? In writing, there are so many opinions that you can take into your work. Some of the opinions are amazing and help propel your characters and story forward, but sometimes it can just be extra noise or chatter. It takes a while (and I am still working on this) to decipher between what needs to be changed in your work and what is just subjective or personal from the person giving you the feedback. On my first book, I received a ton of feedback and there were moments where I felt overwhelmed because I felt like my FMC, Olivia, was slipping away from me. That was when I had to reevaluate how much feedback I was allowing into my writing and then scale back. Ultimately, I used about half of the suggestions I received and continued with the instinctual elements that I felt and believed about my characters. This is the balance – staying true to you and your characters and making sure your work is readable.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? I love the social connections in today’s age. I have been on Instagram and met so many amazing writers and readers in the Bookstagram community. There are people I didn’t know a year ago, that I now consider to be my friends – we text and message about not just book or author life, but real life too. It’s a beautiful time to be a writer and be able to connect with others sharing the same experiences. Another piece that excites me about being a writer in today’s age are the options available for readers and authors. There is no one route anymore for authors nor for readers. We can access books in multiple formats which helps bring a richer and more literate group of people moving forward in life. Authors no longer have to take one route to get published and the community of Indie authors support each other fiercely, which is beautiful in so many ways. I am excited to be part of a time where ideas and creativity can flow freely from writer to reader and back. It’s beautiful and symbiotic.

Melissa Gowdy Baldwin’s The Marriage Wars is out now with Atmosphere Press.