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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Michael J. Coffino

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing has always been a way for me to connect with people and make contributions in ways I feel I can. It has also become an extension of who I am, an identity as it were. It fulfills. Writing has never been more important in my lifetime than it is today. We are suffering an era of severely dampened curiosity and interest in learning. We are inflicted with so many proverbial heads in the sand, blocked from knowledge, people closed off to facts and reality in service of dark agenda. Writing and reading are essential to our survival. Without words to communicate information and connect us, we remain stagnant and often regress, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually. Words teach. They inspire. They are lifeblood. Storytelling, in particular is elixir for the human spirit. From stories, we learn about others, broaden our perspectives, deepen and expand our empathy, and learn a little and sometimes a lot about ourselves. They help us grow. They give us hope and help us live. They change the world.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? I’ve never suffered writer’s block. My challenge is knowing when to stop writing, knowing that my mind is beginning to tire and my best work is not happening. In those situations, when I sense it coming, I switch activities, e.g., read a book, do a different writing task, go for a hike, pick up my guitar, do the dishes and arrange the house, and on. Once my mind resets, I jump back in.

What is your favorite time to write? Early morning, when darkness prevails outside, before the rest of the local world gets stirred and begins to bustle to and fro. The stillness of those hours gives me the peace and internal privacy I covet when writing. I love those hours. It deposits me inside an impenetrable chamber where my best work normally happens.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? As much as possible, detach your ego from your work. I think one of the most effective writing skills we can develop is the art of self-editing, building over time the courage to kill our own darlings. When we can do that–and it is not easy I acknowledge–we have elevated our craft to a new level. It becomes more about the quality of the work than our self-aggrandizement. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take pride in what we create. We should. It merely recalibrates what it is we can be proud of. Similarly, it is vital I believe to recognize that the more we learn about writing, the more we don’t know. Becoming inflated with points of view on “how-to” and know-how can be a weakness. Losing the ego and becoming open to what others think is essential to becoming the best writer we can become.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? Two related things. Making a contribution to knowledge and human relationships. I hope that my work has an enduring impact on readers, not merely as a form of storytelling entertainment, but compelling them to reexamine their own lives, take a deep look inward, learn about themselves, and to summon the courage to reassess and change. Habits and perspectives that limit us are hard to dissolve. But therein lies the perpetual challenge we each face. The possibility that my writing might make inroads there thrills me.

Michael J. Coffino’s Truth Is in the House is out now with Koehler Books.