Whenever I’m talking about my 20-year writing journey, one thing I always mention is the power of curiosity. Together with empathy and perseverance, curiosity is a necessary tool for the writer. It gives the storyteller (and the reader) the agency to ask, “What if this were me?”, a question that fuels narrative drive. It gives the writer different roads to explore, it blows up outlines (a good thing), and it generates plot twists that no one–least of all the author–saw coming.
But curiosity is not just a tool for writing. I wouldn’t even be a writer were I not curious about why I began writing in the first place. I started down this path as a simple exercise to solve a self-imposed riddle, which manifested itself into a 400-page manuscript. Had I not been curious and introspective about why I wrote a book (without any prior experience or aspirations to do so), I likely would’ve dismissed penning a (bad) novel as a quirk, a fluke, a hiccup of life. But I deeply questioned the meaning of the experience. I was 33, had a full-time job in hospitality consulting and a kid on the way, and I just upped and wrote a goddamn novel out of the blue. And only when I poked and prodded my brain with incessant questions about why I would do such a foolish thing, my brain finally answered because maybe this is what you’re supposed to do with your life.
Since that time I’ve always challenged myself to be curious about situations, even when I didn’t want to. Several years ago I was writing at a Starbucks. Headphones on, gaze focused on my laptop screen. But in my peripheral vision I saw someone very close to my right shoulder, and when I turned there was this dude who was talking to me. What I wanted was to dismiss him and get back to my writing, but I challenged myself to be curious about him, so I took off my headphones, turned my body to fully face him, and we had this really intense, quasi-spiritual conversation for about a half-hour. Sure, he was a bit eccentric, but my curiosity kept saying maybe you’re supposed to be talking to him today. Maybe this is a meaningful event in your life. And I can say I truly enjoyed our interaction.
At the end of our conversation, he looked at me with a fierce intensity and said, “You’re going to be big someday. Like millions of dollars big.” Then he paused before adding, “But it won’t happen until you’re fifty.” Then he left, and I never saw him again.
So I’m almost 53 now, and looking back I’ve come to realize the guy was just a random lunatic.
But still. Be curious.
Most of the time it pays off.
Making It Up
Newly added episodes of my conversation series Making It Up are out!
This month I chatted with novelist, artist, and Fulbright Scholar Rebecca Keller (You Should Have Known), pop-culture writer and debut novelist Lauren Thoman (I’ll Stop the World), and brilliant suspense-weaver Tessa Wegert (the Shana Merchant mysteries).
All episodes are available on my website, my YouTube channel, and wherever you get your favorite podcasts.
Only three spots remaining!
All you aspiring or established writers out there–this is the year to finally write your novel. I’m pouring my 20 years of writing and publishing experience into my Gentle Novelist writing retreat, where I will give you the tools, clarity, and momentum you need to write your book. This coaching program and retreat will be lighter on tips and methodology (there will be some, but there is no “one way” to write a book) and heavy on motivation, inspiration, community, and accountability.
August 9-11, 2023 in Boulder, Colorado.
What’s Entertaining Me
Podcast: Scamfluencers (Wondry Podcasts) From Wondry: You never really know someone…especially online. In today’s world, the power of influence can be the quickest path to money and fame, and it often ends in ruin. These are the stories of the world’s most insidious Scamfluencers. And we are their prey.
I usually prefer a nice scam podcast that has a seven-or-eight-episode arc, because then you get to hear all the nitty gritty details of the crime and investigation. But if you’re looking for single-episode stories about all the horrible people in the world, this is the podcast for you. My favorite so far was actually a two-part episode about boy-band grifter Lou Pearlman. Man, what a piece of shit that guy is.
Show: Unstable, (Netflix, 2023) From Netflix: “A biotech genius tries to bounce back from the depths of grief with help from his son, who works to escape his dad’s shadow and save the family business.”
This is the kind of show that you pepper in between your serious binges of Succession and The Old Man. Humorous, light, and surprisingly heartfelt, Unstable features Rob Lowe as said biotech genius and John Owen Lowe (yes, Rob’s own son) as his son. Once you get past Rob Lowe’s agelessness-that-can-only-come-from-drinking-the-blood-of-virgins, you’ll discover the writing is tight, most characters are fully formed, and the “don’t be evil” vibe of the biotech company not too annoying. I’ve liked the first few episodes enough to keep watching. That is, if I remember to. How many shows have I not finished simply because I forgot I started watching them? Jesus, a lot.
Photo of the Month
The sky above my house a few weeks ago. These are either mammatus clouds or a massive inverted challah bread floating in the sky.
Update from My Kids
He did it!
Next up: college.
Update from My Cat and Dog
Scully was so excited by her new backyard splashpad that she got the zoomies.
Humor of the Month sent to me by a friend
Other Thriller Authors You Should Be Reading
Wendy Walker! Happy book birthday to What Remains, Wendy’s latest, captivating thriller (which A.J. Finn calls “absolute splendid storytelling.”) Not only does Wendy write with a beautifully dark ferocity that that will keep you reading all night, she’s also funny, open, honest, a great listener and expert advice-giver. Pick this book up today!
That’s it for now! Until next month…