How did you become a writer? When I was a kid, I loved writing but I resisted the idea of being a writer because it sounded like a life of rejection and semi-poverty to me. So it was always, “I will be an X and write on the side.” I will be a private detective and write on the side. I will be a computer game designer and write on the side. I will be an actress and write on the side. When I got to college, I went part way through a theater degree before I realized that I’m a lousy actor. Meanwhile I was rocking my English classes, so I decided to quit denying the fact that I wanted to write and began pursuing it. I had my first paid publication when I was 21 and have been writing ever since.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.). There are too many to list, but I do like modernist writers such as Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and DH Lawrence. These writers showed me that a book could actually teach the reader how to read it. A modernist text is often disorienting at first, but as you go along, a pattern emerges that establishes how this specific book works, and the story opens up in ways that couldn’t exist in a straight narrative. This is mind-blowing stuff to me even today; it gets me thinking about the possibilities of language and structure in storytelling.
When and where do you write? I work at home full time. I put in long hours with lots of caffeine. On an ideal day, I’ll get up at 5:30 a.m., write until 3 p.m., and then take a walk or do errands. Sometimes I don’t manage the early wake up and get up at 6:30 or 7 a.m. and work until 5 p.m. or so.
What are you working on now? I’m editing my novel, Right Back Where We Started From, as well as working on short stories, essays, and articles. I also maintain a lifestyle blog, Savvy Housekeeping (savvyhousekeeping.com), that I update every day.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? Sure. I think all writers have to go through writer’s block sometimes. For me, it means my creativity has run dry and I need to recharge. Basically, I’ve used up all my ideas for the moment and have to put new information in my brain so it can make connections and give me fresh ideas. Reading is a good cure for writer’s block.
What’s your advice to new writers? Learn to love discipline. Set up a schedule for yourself—a word count to hit, an amount of time at the keyboard each day—and make it a priority in your life. Always read the publication before you submit to it. Don’t blindly send your work to a long list of journals or magazines—it probably won’t be accepted and you’re just adding to the slush pile. Try not to be envious of other writers when they do well, but instead champion their success as proof that if they can do it, you can do it too.
And read every day. A writer has to read. It’s almost as important as the actual writing itself.
Joy Lanzendorfer’s work has been in Mental Floss, Salon, Entrepreneur, Writer's Digest, The Writer, Imbibe, Bust, Scholastic Instructor, Bay Nature, PopMatters, and many other publications. Her fiction has appeared in Hotel Amerika, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Monkeybicycle, Necessary Fiction, Superstition Review, Word Riot, and others. She’s a judge for the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards and holds an MA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Her Twitter handle is @JoyLanzendorfer.