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Next up on the interviewee list is Charlie Pabst of Men with Pens/ Charfish Design. Charlie recently joined the Pen Men and has been fairly quiet thus far. We’re not sure if he just can’t get a word in edgewise, or if he’s playing up the whole man of mystery thing. 😉
Mr. Pabst is a self-taught web designer and writer with loads of style. He’s got a street-smart way about him and he fits in nicely with James and Harry. Charlie has a background in architecture, which brings an interesting and pleasantly unique style to his web designs. He also hails from Seattle, Washington and may find me on his doorstep some day if I get the time to travel to the West Coast. (If only JP Beaumont were a real person, I’d look him up, too!)
Charlie received the same three questions for the mini-interview, and these are his responses.
What writing habits do you practice daily?
My only real writing habit is to be sure I do it every single day. Not necessarily a blog post, or a story or even something remarkably literate, but something.
What is your process for improving your writing?
Part of it is just doing it and doing it and doing it. Another part of it is actually reading the things I write. Not in a critical fashion, but from the viewpoint of someone who may be reading my work for the first time. Being able to see your writing from another’s viewpoint is really important.
As a writer, when you put ideas down on paper, you do so with a concept in your mind already. I mean, you’re writing what you’ve already envisioned in your mind. Your readers don’t have that same concept. You, as the writer, have to GIVE it to them.
Some new writers I know have that problem and wonder, “Why don’t people get my writing? It seems so clear to me.” It’s much easier for us to understand what we’ve written ourselves.
Another thing I do is practice. I don’t like to be lazy with my writing. Say, if I’m just writing an email and I want to say something funny, I’ll purposely try to write something really funny. If I’m in a bad mood and writing a friend or associate, I’ll explain it in a way that’s more creative than just saying, “I’m grumpy.” Once you start practicing like this, it starts to feel like your repertoire is starting to grow. You’ll start to have more confidence that you can convey moods and ideas more successfully.
What books or blog posts have influenced the mechanics and heart of your writing the most?
One person I’ve learned from is Seth Godin. He’s got a very punchy style. His writing doesn’t have that, “I’m going to talk about this now. Now I’m talking about it,” sort of rigidness to it. He just gets right into stories and concepts, and he really makes it work. He’s my go-to guy for seeing how to make really succinct writing work, without losing your reader conceptually, as I brought up earlier.
Another is Nick Cernis of PutThingsOff.com. My interest in his writing is not with his choice of topics or subject matter. I just like his style. It’s loose, humorous and it often involves regional patois that, again, he just makes work.
Bill Bryson, who’s not a blogger as far as I know, is an incredible non-fiction essayist. He can write about anything and make it luscious, funny and vividly real. I feel like I know him personally just from the heart and honesty he puts into his writing. That honesty is something that is ultra-necessary, regardless of the type of writing you’re doing.
Honesty and heart make a writer’s work vividly real. It sounds like those two qualities deserve active development and nurturing in writing if we want that lucidity and lusciousness that Charlie talks about.
Great responses, Charlie. Thanks for letting us pick your brain!