How did you become a writer?
I was having a frustrating time at work, so I wrote my first book as a cathartic experience because I knew that there must be a better way. Thus, you could say that I became a writer to escape.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.)
Teacher: Harold Keables, Iolani School, Honolulu, Hawaii. He was my high school English teacher and the biggest influence by far. Were he alive, he would be astounded that I'm actually getting paid to write. Writers: John McPhee, Ambrose Bierce. Books: If You Want to Write, The Elements of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style. By the way, I only read fiction, except when I'm writing a book. When I'm writing a book, I read competitive books for market research. The kind of fiction that I read is stuff by Daniel Silva, David Baldacci, and Frederick Forsyth. In other words, love stories—love of guns and violence.
When and where do you write?
I can write anywhere at any time. I can also sleep anywhere at any time. Usually, I bounce between these two states unless I'm playing hockey.
What writing tools do you favor? (Specifically: computer, word processor, dictionary, thesaurus, apps, etc.)
Computers: MacPro (home office), iMac (family room), MacBook Pro (everywhere else). Software and sites for writing books: Microsoft Word, Dictionary (the Apple app), Wikipedia, TextExpander. Software for writing blogs: MarsEdit, BBEdit. Proofing books: iPad 3G, iAnnotate, Pogo Stylus. I've found that the best way to proof a manuscript is to put it on an iPad and read it as if it's already an e-book. I don't know why, but this works extremely well for me.
What are you working on now?
I'm writing a book called Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. I want to write the best book ever for people to influence, woo, and persuade others and change the world. I'm also working on my forward and backward crossover skating.
How do you assess the current state of book publishing?
iPad changes everything. It may take ten years, but printed books are going the way of desktop computers: there are many around, some people will buy new ones, but most people buy laptops at this point. How many people do you know who buy desktop computers? In ten years, buying a printed book will be as unusual as buying a desktop computer. Eighty percent of the books that I buy are for my iPad since the day I got my iPad. Bookstores have to do some real bold, out-of-the-shelf thinking to survive. I wish I had the answer for them.
Do you foresee a time when you’ll bypass traditional publishers altogether?
I will bypass them when 80% of book sales are e-books—that is, unless I'm locked into a multiple-book deal with a huge advance at the time. Many people buy my books as gifts. Can you imagine getting an ebook as a gift? "Here's your gift link. Click to feel appreciated." Or, "We're having an author signing. Print out the first page of your e-book and bring it with you." I don't think so.
Do you write differently for the Internet than for a book?
Let me put it this way: the Internet has changed how I write a book. I use shorter paragraphs and bulleted or numbered lists all the time. 140 characters is the new paragraph. Or, if you're Japanese, it's the new haiku.
Do you ever have doubts about your writing ability and if so, how do you overcome them?
None of my books have been New York Times bestsellers, so sometimes I lay awake at night wondering what I'm doing wrong. Based on some of what I've seen on the New York Times bestseller list, though, my marketing, not my writing, must be the problem. The only way to overcome my doubt is to write a New York Times bestseller, I guess.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
My approach to writer's block is to only write a book when I have something to say. That's why it's usually four years between books for me. What a concept, huh? If you have something to say, by definition, you don't have writer's block. That said, I do get writer's block when I have to write a blog post. When this happens, I look at other blogs to get ideas. Alltop.com is great for this purpose.
What’s your advice to writers?
I'm a romantic about writing. When people tell me that they think they should write a book, I ask them why. Many tell me that they think a book will help them gain credibility and position them as a speaker, leader, or God help us, a politician. Make me puke. People should write when they have something powerful to say. Something so powerful, useful, insightful, or delightful that you feel a moral obligation to write about it. No one should write as a means to an end. Writing is an end in itself—a piece of art, a window into your soul, and your blood on the paper—or in the iPad's memory.
Guy Kawasaki is a managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm and a columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine. Previously, he was an Apple Fellow at Apple Computer, Inc. Guy is the author of nine books including Reality Check, The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, Selling the Dream, and The Macintosh Way. He has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.