Marcia Trahan is a freelance editor and teacher based in Vermont. A graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars’ MFA program, Marcia has published work in literary journals such as Fourth Genre, Full Circle, Anderbo, and Clare. Another essay on illness and recovery is slated for the upcoming LaChance Publishing anthology, Women Reinvented. She is working on the final draft of a memoir in essays, The Most Livable City. To learn more, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
What initially drew you to writing?
Lots of reading from an early age! I grew up in a small town in Vermont, where we were fortunate to have a wonderful library. I still recall the children’s floor of that library as a magical place. You had to walk up a long, winding staircase to reach it, and it made me feel like a princess in a tower. I wrote my first story in second grade about a talking toad. I just turned forty last month, and talking about this reminds me that I’ve been writing for over thirty years. Apparently, I just can’t stop.
How many words do you write each day?
I don’t keep track of how many words I write at a sitting. And I don’t write every day, unless I’m driven to do so. Every time I’ve tried to impose a schedule on myself, writing becomes a chore–about as appealing as washing the dishes. Many people feel they need a schedule or a daily goal, and I definitely respect that. Everyone has his or her own way of approaching creativity. I beat myself up for NOT writing daily until I realized that the being-mean-to-myself approach wasn’t working. It was only after I accepted my idiosyncratic rhythms that I finished my first book, a memoir. As I neared the finish line, I was writing daily–because I felt compelled.
Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?
Seat-of-the-pants. In my mind, outlines are for term papers, not storytelling. I did map out my book chapters, but that just meant listing them and scribbling notes next to each title. I needed to get a feel for how the book would appear to the reader, to get some distance from what I was immersed in for so long.
When are you the most productive?
I’m a night person. Unfortunately, I’m most productive when it’s very late and I need to go to bed!
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
I might read something that’s so terrific, it sends me straight to the computer. Sometimes it’s a competitive urge, but more often, something in that writer’s voice or experience has evoked a thought or memory of my own, and I feel an urgent need to sketch that idea or scene before I lose it. (This is a frequent just-before-bedtime occurrence.)
What advice would you give young writers?
If you’re meant to be a writer, you’ll be a writer. You don’t have to worry about making it happen. It either will or it won’t. Yes, you’ll have to work very hard at it. Yes, it’ll break your heart. But it’s infinitely more painful to push writing away. Several times in my own life, I tried to deny that writing was my true calling. It was too hard, it was impractical, I wasn’t good enough; the list of excuses went on. Every time, writing called me back.
I think that when things get tough, many writers ask, “Why couldn’t I just be happy as an accountant, a plumber, a circus clown–anything but this?” I think it’s important to tell young writers that they will have doubts, struggles, dark nights of the soul. That’s normal. Why not be prepared for it? I grew up with a rather silly, glossy ideal of what being a writer meant. Let’s just say the reality doesn’t exactly match my girlish dream!
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?