Want to rake in wheelbarrows full of cash for lazing around in your PJ’s writing for elephant?
You came to the right place, kiddo, this is the big expo.
Here are the four tip-top cash-elephant writers for December, namely: Tara Lemieux, Kate Bartolotta, Chris Grosso and Candice Holdorf, giving you the dish on what it’s like to write for elephant. Waylon doesn’t count because he gave his money back, but he did mention the following:
“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
I mean either Waylon said that, or Harper Lee. I couldn’t be sure, because I was asleep at the keyboard again. I do know Waylon did say:
“I’m surprised at how vulnerable I feel, 10 years into this path.”
Right there, Waylon shows honesty that is laced throughout these interviews, honesty that grants a certain sound.
Our own Kate was home, too, and she lost no time in spilling it regarding finding your own voice.
“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
Well, actually, that was Allen Ginsberg, but still, he’s capturing something there that Kate totally agrees with, because when I asked her what she looks for when scouting topics to write up for ele, she said:
“When I scout article topics, those are the ones I usually don’t end up writing. I have several half-finished drafts of things I thought might be good to write about, but the things I write are the things that strike, grab hold and don’t let go. Sometimes it’s a simple quote or photo that catches my eye. Sometimes it’s an idea rolling around in my head that I find myself mumbling about and absolutely have to write it down. When our apprentices ask for advice on what they should write about, that’s always one of my suggestions. Write about what you can’t keep in.”
Solid as a stone, that Kate. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my editor. Kate gives it all up for free in a writing piece this month, and was true to her words when she posted “Spiritual Heroin.” It is straight up what happened to Kate, and I know she ain’t playin’.
Candice, whose posts always go into the thousands (I’ll break four digits about one in five times) is “The Orgasmic Life” columnist for elephant journal. She’s also a life coach specializing in desire, sexuality and orgasmic meditation, and her writing is a great example of the power of focus on one topic.
Asked how to best write sex, she said:
“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.”
And she looked good saying it, too, even though she was Ray Bradbury at the time.
Candice actually said:
“I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.”
Well, no, that was Patrick Dennis. Candice is writing sex as transformation, as wellness, seeking (and finding) in her words:
“…the healing that comes with total acceptance of that which we deem shameful. Of course sex is a huge part of this, but I also want to include eating disorders and addictions of all kinds.”
Candice also let me know how her subject focus is spilling out into her coming works, and it’s kind of cool to note what singular emphasis can do for you:
“Well, right now I have three books in mind. One is an e-book filled with poetry and real life stories from my personal erotic diary. I’d also love to get some photos of me in there posing as various female archetypes.”
And speaking of the phrase, “Damn, Girl!”, Tara Lemieux wins most hits for least words with best content for her piece this month. If you missed it, grok it, girlfriend. It’s straight up brain cand’, well no, straight up heart candy.
I asked Tara to tell me what she thinks about regarding self-editing, and the corrective voice within, and she gave me a good one:
“Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”
You probably already spotted that quote as in fact a Robert A. Heinlein, but Tara did say this about those pre-publishing mental brakes:
“I really try not to ask myself too many questions before I submit something for review; I just like to read it over once or maybe twice again… just to see if it’s something I really like. That’s generally my sniff test; if it still sounds good after a day of settling into my brain, then, I’m okay with sending it out.”
On the same question, Candice said:
“Well of course I do my mental checklist rundown of everything EJ asks for when posting, but I won’t bore readers with those details here. Otherwise, I do a brutally honest gut check with myself regarding what I’m about to post. I ask myself things like, Is it truly coming from the heart? Have I completely abandoned any care of possible negative feedback as a result of what I’ve written? And most importantly, Is what I’ve written without any doubt or question true to my own personal experience? If I’m able to answer Yes to those questions, then I’m ready to submit.”
Get your mind out of the gutter you pig, she means ready to submit her piece for review. I mean, she is prepared to forward the writing to the publisher for their perusal. Sheesh. We were talking about the gut check.
The gut check is also serving Chris Grosso. He cleared 16,000 hits on his piece about how the Thich Nhat Hanh changed his life, and it came 100 percent straight from his experience. Check your guts, people.
Chris writes in his shop, and also mentioned you should always:
“Keep a small can of WD-40 on your desk—away from any open flames—to remind yourself that if you don’t write daily, you will get rusty.”
Okay, Chris writes wherever he wants (but that is a cool shop photo of him), and George Singleton actually said that.
Chris takes what he puts out there seriously, even when being funny:
“I have to come with complete honesty and integrity every time I write because I owe it to the person who takes the time to read what I’ve written. I mean, I’m still a super playful kid at heart so once in a while I’ll post a random silly video I came across on YouTube or something, but there will be relevance to it, if for nothing more than the intention to bring a smile and laughter to someone’s face. That’s one of the most spiritually healing things we can do, which is so often overlooked, to laugh.”
I loved reading that because as a writer, I am all about the honesty, except when I’m bullshitting. I usually ask myself before sending to review, “Can I get away with this?” But that’s just me.
So don’t forget, writing is, well, writing. So Write.
“Write. Write everyday, and then, write some more. Because the only thing standing in the way of thinking about being a writer and actually being a writer is that keyboard sitting in front of you. That’s what I love most about elephant journal. They’ve created a voice for anyone to create a message, to send out to this world, and that’s amazing.”
“I love that it continues. That I get inspired by others’ comments. That I might inspire someone else to write. There is something in the discipline of writing regularly—hence the yoga challenge this month. For me, it’s as much about encouraging my daily writing habit as my daily yoga practice.”
“Readers who want to write should just start writing. Even if the next day you look at the page and think, “Dear God, what was that drivel that came out of me?” It doesn’t matter. You have to turn on the creative faucet and allow what wants to flow to flow. I made a personal vow in 2007 to start writing three hand-written pages a day of whatever just wanted to come out of me and I’ve stuck to this pretty religiously.”
But then, think.
What do the editing wizards at elephant want you to do before clicking “submit?”
Lynn Hasselberger’s got your perfect wait/wait questions right here.
Is it good enough? Did I catch all of my typos? Will people even click on it (i.e., are the photo and title compelling enough?) Should I sleep on it?
“Be authentic. Write about what you’re passionate about and be conversational. Don’t be afraid to use humor.”
Lynn is no slouch at the keys either, people. Check out her latest if you haven’t been there yet, it’s tasty:
“I can’t pinpoint the exact day I stopped going with the flow—whether it was a gradual resistance or sudden white knuckled grip around every corner of my life—but I don’t like it.”
She is writing from the heart, which is an approach embraced throughout this strange family of elephant writers. In fact, it’s the note I’m going to leave you on. Write from the heart.
Waylon is down:
“Readers who want to write, like those who say of art ‘Oh, I don’t know how to draw’ or whatever, need to know that they have valuable stories. That the more personal, genuine and thoughtful they are, the simple we are in sharing, the more helpful we can be to others and our world.
I interviewed Lester Brown years ago, and he said to me, ‘media is the key to saving the planet, and us.’ Communication, whether in a relationship or via a website, like ours, or small blog, or one’s Facebook page, can be the opposite of hype, PR, discursive BS. There’s a Somee card that makes fun of society’s rampant oversharing: it has a picture of someone saying, ‘Instead of interacting with my friends, I’m going to share a quote on their Facebook wall.’ We can do more—and less—than that. As Kerouac said, to paraphrase, ‘it’s what we least want to admit to that the world is most bleeding to hear.’ Once in a while, something genuine and real comes up. Share that. For me, most recently, it was this.”
Chris is down:
“Honestly, the most valuable thing I’ve come to learn when writing is to just say fuck it. Throw complete abandon to the wind and fuck what anyone else thinks of what you have to say! I try to write as if no one was ever going to read it, which typically culminates in an experience as though there’s a fire burning in my heart that is going to suffocate me if I didn’t get the words out through my fingertips.”
And he brings it home here, with the very bones of the article:
“So yeah, fuck it. Just write. It doesn’t have to be beautiful or eloquent or any of that bullshit. If it’s from the heart, it’s perfect. I was scared to death to write at first, scared of sounding like an idiot, scared of being judged, scared that I had nothing of value to say, but that was just my ego having a field day with me.
If you want to be a worthwhile writer, be willing to get raw, vulnerable and authentic. Fuck writing for praise, acknowledgement or any other self gratifying reason. Write because you have no other choice but to write! Write because it’s demanded of you by something far greater than your own self. Write as if you were on your deathbed and it was the last thing you’re going to leave this world with. I mean, you never know, right?”
So write your balls off, people.
Here’s everything you need to know to write for elephant in terms of hoary, thorny, warted details (if that’s the phrase I’m after).
Since I am so his bitch, I’m giving the final notes to Waylon:
“Finally, as Pema Chodron says, ‘if we’re waiting to be perfect, we’ll never start.’
Start. Write something. Share a photo. An Instagram. We can make a powerful independent media community, together. And we need people power more than ever these days.”
Ed: Brianna Bemel