Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dog Days of Summer: Mark David Gerson

Good morning! Today it is my great privilege to introduce you to award-winning author and motivator Mark David Gerson. We'll start today with a question I asked Mark David and a little about his background as an author.

You inspire so many other authors to write--what inspires you?

What a great question! I believe that inspiration is present for us everywhere. We just need to keep our eyes -- and hearts -- open to see and feel it. Having said that, nature is one of my most powerful inspirations. It's not that I write about nature or that the natural world I experience finds a direct way into my writing (although it happens). It's more about how certain natural settings touch me deeply and, thus, open me to the voice of my muse.

I've lived in some very inspiring places (and visited even more). Most of the first two drafts of my novel The MoonQuest, for example, were written in rural Nova Scotia, a profoundly mystical place. The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write was birthed when I lived in Hawaii. Sedona, Arizona was the birthplace of The StarQuest, my MoonQuest sequel.

These days, I live in the high-desert foothills of the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Although no Sandia topography has appeared in The StarQuest, I know that these mountains are part of the inspiration that is getting the book done. It's the view I wake up to, and it's the view I see from my desk (see photo).

It does truly look inspirational. Please tell us about how you got started in writing.

Unlike many I writers, I hated writing when I was a kid, and throughout school. Back then, it was math I loved. I loved it because there was always only one right answer.

I was so terrified of being judged back then, that I avoided anything I could that would put me at risk. At some unconscious level, I figured that getting the right answer in math would keep me safe. Math for me was black-and-white. Creative pursuits offered just too many shades of gray and too many opportunities to be judged!

I don't know what shut me down at a young age. All I know is that something did. Yet, my muse was nothing if not devious...and persistent.

In high school and college, I found myself doing publicity for theater productions. So I had to learn how to write press releases and related promotional material. Those experiences got me my first jobs out of university — in public relations, where the writing requirements were more challenging. Ultimately, I found myself writing for and editing a weekly tabloid. From there, it was an easy leap to freelance work (on the side at first, then full-time).

It was during that freelance period, in my 30s, that a colleague talked me into taking a creative writing class, something I had long resisted.

We've all had experiences that, in an instant, change us forever. That class was one of mine, awakening me to creative and spiritual parts of myself I had never known were there. I've been writing, teaching and coaching ever since!

Writers, I invite you to share your thoughts with Mark David by leaving a comment below. Share your comments and questions and feel free to learn more about Mark David at his sites: The Voice of Your Muse (for writers), Mark David's Personal Site: Mark David , and Mark David's Spiritual/Inspirational Site: New Earth Chronicles.

Tomorrow please join us again to learn more about Mark David Gerson, his writing methods and books and see what you can learn!


Saoirse Redgrave said...

Mark David,

I also think inspiration surrounds us, it's just a matter of opening ourselves to it. And, because I never went through a non-writer stage, I find it fascinating (but completely understandable) that you found comfort in the definite right and wrong numbers provide.

Just curious, is there any advice you might suggest for teachers so they have a less judgmental setting for tender writers? I was already socially ostracized when I began pursuing creative writing, so I didn't really feel this particular judgment but would love to know how we can help improve things for others.

Thanks so much for being here Mark David!

Mark David Gerson said...

Dear Saoirse,

First, thanks so much for featuring me here. I'm looking forward to reading people's comments and to answering their questions. Now, to yours...

Every teacher has his/her own style, born, no doubt, of personal experience, personality and philosophy. For me, creating a safe, supportive and nurturing environment is key to the teaching/coaching experience. It's also key to a successful writers' group.

My groups and classes are not boot camps. They're incubators.

The bottom line for me is to do everything I can to support the writer, the writing and the creative process.

It's not about showing off how smart, how strong or how creative I am. It's about making sure the writers present know that the only thing that matters is whatever it will take to make them feel better about their creativity and to make them access their innate gifts and skills.

Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Mark David,

Personally and in my own writing I find that much of the inspiration comes from the internal world - there the demons battle and the seas roil. When I am in places like Nova Scotia and Sedona, I find that my soul rests and my pen stills. Most of my best writing is set in cities and is written in busy places.

Reading your comments in this blog and having seen some of your excellent photography, I must admit some envy.

Now to a question. Once you have started the writing process, do you - as I - find that some force beyond your control begins to shape the lives you have created. I'm still trying to figure out from where that force comes. Is it the unconscious, a "muse" in the ancient sense, or does this newly created world have its owm free will?

Mark David Gerson said...

Thanks for the question, Kenneth. Indeed, one of my prime precepts in writing, as in life, is surrender -- to the higher call, to my muse, to my creative source, the the unconscious, to my God, if that's how you choose to characterize it.

In my view, my job as creator is to get out of the way and let creation occur. In Genesis, God didn't force Creation to bend to His will. He said "let there be light."

Creation in its most powerful and profound iteration is a process of allowing our worlds to unfold, of letting our stories take shape, of freeing our characters to have their own lives on the page.

Deborah Blake said...

Hi Mark David,
I have enjoyed having you as a guest moderator on writechat on Twitter, and found your comments on this blog quite interesting as well.

As a young writer, I sent out a few short stories for submission, got rejections (or silence) and give up creative writing for some time. Or at least, sending it out into the world.

A few years ago, I decided that I had something to say (in the Pagan nonfiction world) and went back at it. Now I have 4 published NF books and am working on getting the fiction pubbed as well.

Of course, the fiction publishing world is pretty tough :-) Did you have a difficult time selling your first book? And how do you balance the demands of being a creative writer with those of being a coach?

I don't know if my muse takes over, but my characters certainly do. Have you ever felt that your did the original "creation" of your characters, but that eventually they seemed to take on a life of their own?

Deborah Blake

Robin said...

Hi Mark David, thank you so much for giving us some time. My question is, how does one find inspiration in the everyday chaos that we have. My chaos being 2 under 2 who happen to attach themselves to my legs at the worst possible times. Thanks again!

Shannon said...

Interesting stuff! I look forward to learning more. Inspiration I can find, time seems more elusive. Guess it's a matter of making the time, or maybe just finding it?

Mark David Gerson said...


>Of course, the fiction publishing world is pretty tough :-)

Your first task is to do your best to remove statements like that from your vocabulary, Deborah. I don't mean that you should censor yourself, but that it would be helpful to be aware of how our language can help create our reality.

The publishing world is what it i. Your book is what it is. Write what you must. Write what you cannot not write. Trust the greater wisdom of your book. And read this amazing story about author Madeleine L'Engle's rejections.

how do you balance the demands of being a creative writer with those of being a coach?>

There is absolutely no conflict. Are the clients and students I attract into my life share, to a degree, some version of my writing issues. This makes me perfectly suited to assist and inspire them. As such, all my counsel to them is also for me.

From that perspective, every minute spent teaching or coaching feeds my own writing powerfully!

> Have you ever felt that your did the original "creation" of your characters, but that eventually they seemed to take on a life of their own?

Absolutely. And that's as it should be. Our original concept for our characters is often just the key into their lives. Our job is to free them onto the page and allow them to live their own imperative. It's their story, after all, not ours!

Mark David Gerson said...


How does one find inspiration in the everyday chaos that we have?

Creativity is the result of chaos. It's the act of giving form to formlessness. Creativity is not about control. It's about surrender.

Inspiration is everywhere we choose to see it -- in the screaming tantrums of a two-year-old as much in the serene stillness of a deserted lake.

Creating time to write in the midst of the chaos is another question altogether. That's about finding whatever moments we can, however brief. And rather than being resentful because we have so little time, being grateful for every creative moment we're able to find.

This, like everything else in creativity and life, is not about the events in our lives. It's about how we choose to view them, and how we choose to use them.

Treat every moment as precious, whether you're writing or not. And treat everything as a potential source of inspiration. From those two simple commitments is great art born

Mark David Gerson said...

Shannon: See what my comment to Robin about time. I think that will answer your question.