In all honesty, I have no idea how I came to know Jeff Goins. I think it was through Bryan Allain’s great blog community Killer Tribes, but I can’t be sure. What I do know is that Jeff is masterful at marketing and at balance, despite what he says below. I had the privilege of meeting Jeff face to face for the first time last week. It was truly a pleasure. Enjoy his honesty.
1. Tell me about your latest project.
I just wrote, Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life (available on Amazon and B&N, plus some other places). It’s a call to live the life we’re afraid: one full of radical sacrifice and selfless giving. In my experience of working for a nonprofit mission organization, I’ve been confronted with an interesting paradox: those who are living the most abundant lives are paying the least amount of attention to themselves. This is a book about the process of what happens when you get “wrecked” with the realization that you are part of a larger story.
2.What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
As a child, I was often reading books. I didn’t finish nearly as many as I should have though (little did I know that this is sometimes a great indicator of creativity… or ADHD). When I got a little older, I started exploring the arts: first drawing, then writing. After that, I started playing music (around the age of 16). Writing was always my refuge, though. At night, I’d write short stories and songs and poems that nobody ever read. It was a way to process the world around me and vent about my own insecurities. I carried this habit into college and then my adult life. It took me two decades to realize this was what a calling looks like.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
UGH. (That about sums it up, actually.) I try to write in the mornings, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. So then I try to write in the evenings, but sometimes THAT doesn’t happen. So THEN I try to work it in wherever I can — which is basically my routine. I’m in a season where I’m giving myself lots of grace, but also trying to adhere to a regular discipline the best I can. What that looks like is a few hundred words scribbled in a notebook when I get a few free minutes or about ten, disparate word documents saved to my desktop.
4.Who are you reading now?
Abraham Heschel, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Whiston, Suzanne Collins (still trying to finish up the last Hunger Games book), Ann Voskamp, and a few others.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
A Farewell to Arms: It’s haunting in it simplicity and sadness. I love stories that hurt a little. Makes me feel alive. The Alchemist: If ever there was a clarion call to pursue your dream, this was it. Mere Christianity: I love most of what Lewis writes, but this book changed my life in its appreciation of beauty and thoughtful philosophy.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
Poorly. I actually treat them as two separate entities. Building a platform is about other people. Pursuing your craft is about you (or maybe the Muse inside of you). They are two very different activities, and when I try to mix them too much, my motivations get muddled. I try to write mostly offline and then do platform-building stuff online. In other words, if I’m on the web, I’m doing stuff to build my platform, even if it LOOKS like writing. I don’t consider blogging my deep dive into the craft (although still important). The best way to balance them is to give each the respect they deserve.
7.What is a typical day like for you?
Wake up. Drink water. Take my baby boy downstairs for some early morning bonding time. Put him in the swing when he gets fussy. Make some coffee. Write a little bit. Read a little bit. Check email, Twitter, Facebook, blog, etc. Take the dog for a walk. Start work (from home). Work all day. Write a little bit on my lunch break, if I give myself one. Finish work. Make dinner (I’m the cook in our family). Go for another walk with dog and/or baby. Write a little bit more. Try to work in a run or some exercise (a few times per week). Watch a movie or an old episode of Mad Men. Drink some more water. Go to bed.
8. Describe your dream writing space? Kitchen table with bar stools. French press coffee. Ambient music. Something Spanish cooking in the background (with olive oil, of course). I’m simple, though. Just about any setting will do — other than being parked in front of a blaring television.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
Something to the effect of: “I thought you were a real writer…” To which I responded, “Gosh, maybe you’re right. I’ll have to work on that.” And I was being sincere. It’s my greatest fear that one day all my readers will wake up and go, “Wait a second… he’s a fake!” A nightmare, in fact.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
Stop talking about writing. Stop reading about writing. Stop imagining yourself writing. And just write. Everything (including research and coffee dates and conferences) is easy compared to that one, hard act. But once you do it, you’ll realize it’s a lot easier than you thought.
Jeff Goins is the communications director of Adventures in Missions, a nonprofit organization. He is also an author, blogger, and speaker. Visit him online at goinswriter.com or you can follow him on Twitter @jeffgoins.