Ira Wagler is the author of the memoir Growing Up Amish.
What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?
I write sporadically and intensely. I’ve never had a serious case of writer’s block, but then, I haven’t been writing seriously for that long, either. So I might yet get struck. But generally, if I have to produce, I will. And often, when I’m stuck, or just don’t feel like immersing myself emotionally into the story at the moment, I’ll write rough chunks of scenes that can later be expanded and edited.
What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?
Good scotch whiskey and a looming deadline. And when I really need a boost, I go back and reread my favorite scenes from You Can’t Go Home Again, by Thomas Wolfe. In my opinion, Wolfe wrote the “great American novel” in that work. He has been my inspiration ever since I discovered him in 1991.
What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?
I was never a “young writer.” After breaking from my Amish roots, I obtained my GED and began attending college at age 27. There, I learned to express myself, tentatively at first, through the written word. After graduating, almost twenty years ago, I sent a draft of a story to Professor Dawn Watkins, who had taught a few of my English classes. At the time, I was struggling to find my voice, and the story was pretty bad. Dreadful, really. Too elaborate, too flowery, way too out there. She returned it with a cryptic note. “Stop trying to write like a writer, and just write.”