Welcome to my new blog series, Writers on Writing!
First up: Paul Ingraham. I’ve known Paul for ages. The first night I met him, we ended up sharing a tent. That’s about as sordid as the story gets. We had an instant connection, though… we both loved to write, and we really bonded over that. At the time, Paul was in the process of building what became a highly successful RMT business, but he turned that business into a successful writing career on saveyourself.ca.
Paul and I even went on a writing retreat last year together, and that was pretty successful. We wrote 12 hours a day, and then watched Game of Thrones to reward ourselves. We meet up every couple of months for sushi and writer’s chat.
1. I am…. Paul Ingraham
2. Author of… SaveYourself.ca, hundreds of self-help articles and several e-books.
3. The first thing I ever wrote was… Something about Space 1999, I think, way back when I was five or six, in the mid-1970s. I don’t remember specifically.
4. I knew I wanted to be a writer when….. I showed an interest in writing more than I had to from as soon as I could write at all, and I was trying to work as a freelance writer by my mid-teens.
5. My first writing success was…. About five years ago, when my e-books about common pain problems started to sell in numbers that meant something. I had been trying to make writing pay for about twenty years at that point. It does now.
6. Who were your influences?
Early in my career, most of the great science fiction writers, particularly Le Guin and Heinlein — the imagination and craft required for science fiction still dazzles and excites me today. But non-fiction has taken over my career, and three books in particular blew my mind and made me fall in love with writing about anything interesting, anything at all: Sagan’s Demon-Haunted World, Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost, and Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.
7. Describe your writing process.
I am a creature of the word processing and internet age. I learned to type on the first word processors that were available, and I don’t know any other way to write (I actually cannot write longhand any more). For me, typography and layout and publishing tech are integral to the writing process. I have a huge desk with a mighty array of computer equipment: a big iMac flanked by two huge 27″ computer displays. I use dozens of technologies — I have an extremely complex writing process, with a strong focus on a vast filing system. I work all day, almost every day.
8. What does success as a writer look like to you? Do you think you are successful?
I write because I have to — I couldn’t stop any more than I could hold my breath for an hour — and I would keep doing it whether I was successful for not. But I now measure success straightforwardly in dollars and job satisfaction, and anything else seems idealistic and quaint. I used to be arty, and claim that good writing was its own reward, which seems ridiculous now that I make money. Getting paid well to write is by far the most rewarding thing I have ever experienced.
9. What does the future look like? What are you working on?
I can now afford to work on whatever I like. I look forward to writing at least a couple more books about pain to round out my work in that area. I’m working on a book about my bizarre professional experiences over the last few years — the only book-worthy story I have to tell about my life so far. And after that I plan to try novels again — they defeated me the last time I took a real crack at it, quite a few years ago now.
10. Which famous writer would you like to write your biography?
The idea of something writing a biography about me seems kind of appalling, like a bad idea for a book — not interesting and not feasible! How could anyone possibly get it right? Telling stories about my life is something only I can do, and my whole life isn’t a good story anyway. No biography, please!
Thanks, Paul! Next week, screenwriter Michelle Muldoon.