Writer’s Toolbox

Author Q&A

Here we present our exclusive collection of Q&As with a long list of illustrious authors.

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Van Dyke Parks

Van Dyke ParksVan Dyke Parks is a songwriter who has worked with artists such as Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys, and Ringo Starr.

What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?

Realize that there is such a thing as a deadline, and we all have one. This realization generally chills the soul on the mortal coil and springs into creative pursuit.

What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?

I think it's most essential to put the shoulder to the wheel, and it will go somewhere. The way to put a shoulder to the wheel can be shown. Yet, the way beyond cannot be told. It must be found. The most helpful tutors admit this to their students: The way must be found. When I write, I generally have no prior idea about why I'm writing, or whay it'll be about. I let the process take me where it will, as I discover things of supreme unimportance along the way. At some point, in every chance I start to write a piece, a through-line may start to develop. As I love exposition so, and liken the song to a novella or short-story form, I welcome exposition (....boy meets girl....girl dumps boy....boy meets boy etc.) Yet, even Haiku can have heightened emotive impact, in its invariable economy. Much "creative" writing worth its salt, is from the hand and heart from someone who wants to serve beyond self, who infects with hope. ("Happy Songs Sell Records—Sad Songs Sell Beer", a tune by Jim Ford, Illustrates the challenge of finding great acceptance with the power to console—and I believe the real money is in serving up that confection to a troubled Earth.

What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?

"Criticism is the highest form of Autobiography!" —Oscar Wilde

And lose yourself in your work.