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Member Spotlight: Thomas Lloyd Qualls

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Words are bridges. They are bridges to each other and to ideas and to everything else. And we need those bridges now more than ever. Language existed before the written word. But the written word built bridges for us that language alone could not. A word is a magical thing (in countless ways). And the reading of words is actually an act of creation. As readers, we get to participate in the art itself coming to fruition like no other art form. We are brought into the world made by the writer and get to do our own co-creating while we’re there; completing the circle of art in a way wholly unique to the written word. As the poet Muriel Rukeyser observed, The world is made up of stories. And stories are made up of voices. Your voice and mine. And billions of other peoples’ voices we don’t know and will never meet. We are all creating the world together. And that seems like a pretty important task. One that we ought to maybe pay greater attention to than we do. If the universe is made up of stories, then no story is ever told in vain. Every word we utter changes the world. Every single word is powered by light and matter, born of will, and infused with all the sound and fury of galaxies colliding in space. String them together and it is difficult to comprehend what you have unleashed.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? Admittedly, writing is not like most other jobs. It’s prone to a unique kind of frustration. Not the least of which is that there have never been any guarantees that the ideas or the words or your focus will all show up when they are supposed to, in any kind of meaningful order. But that is also what makes writing kind of magical. Having said that, here are a few ideas and practices to consider:
1. Sit down and write. Seriously. By that I mean set a regular writing schedule and stick to it. Even if it is only 10 minutes a day. Show up with pen and paper, computer and screen, whatever your medium. Sit down and be ready to write. Eventually the words will come. Words abhor a vacuum.
2. Also, words are like cats, so if, when doing your sitting down to write, you come prepared to herd them to the page, beware. Instead, it is best to simply create a warm and comfortable place for them to come lie down. Or place some kind of metaphoric mouse near you and then just wait for their curiosity to get the best of them. You cannot control words. You can only learn to create spaces for them to show up.
3. The harder I chase the fickle cats of progress or achievement, the more these things become water between my fingers. Be still and let the cats come to you.

What is your favorite time to write? When the stars align and the calendar clears and I have a quiet cabin someplace to write, uninterrupted by family or friends or other jobs. But since that doesn’t happen very often, my favorite time to write is the time I create to write. Whether it is 3 hours or 15 minutes. That said, I really like the in between worlds, like dawn and dusk. The veils between the worlds seem to open up and more words can slip through and onto the page.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? Two things: (1) Writing is re-writing; and (2) Be brave. In other words, have the audacity to belong to the writer’s club. Believe that you belong in the art world and act accordingly. No one is going to send you an invitation. No one is going to give you permission to call yourself a writer. You get to decide that on your own. You get to create your own membership card.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? Being a writer in any age is exciting. There are benefits and drawbacks to today’s publishing world. But like no other time, writers have a host of options and can really craft the way they want to show up and participate.

Thomas Lloyd Qualls’s Happiness Is an Imaginary Line in the Sand is out now with Homebound Publications.