Create Out Loud

with Jennifer Louden

16 | Novelist Laurie Frankel: Can you Love Putting your Work out As Much As Creating It?

Show Notes

In this episode:

  • An intimate conversation with Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of This Is How It Always Is and One Two Three.
  • Laurie's passion for creative inclusion
  • Fiction v. nonfiction storytelling
  • The "Prestige" of "literature” v. “fiction"
  • How and why we should study our craft
  • Navigating the world of a transgender child
  • Being a story savant


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Isn't it comforting to hear widely celebrated novelists talk about shitty first drafts?

Laurie Frankel is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of four novels. You may be familiar with her breakout hit and Reese Witherspoon Book Club choice, This Is How It Always Is, the story of a family grappling with a transgender child.

Frankel's acclaimed new bestseller One Two Three, which I couldn’t put down, was also about big ideas and big struggles. And she admitted it  "wrote hard" for her, but that's OK! For Laurie, the joy comes in the process, whether it's easy, hard, smooth, bumpy, or annoying — that complicated cocktail is what makes the creative process beautiful.

Something I noticed right away was that her books are about making the world a better place, which is exactly what struck me about her when we first met a decade ago.

It's not that I necessarily set out to write these things. But I do kind of feel like, in the end, I want stories that are hopeful and uplifting and leading with love. And I don't want them to be cheesy. I don't want them to be easy.  

It matters to her in a larger sense and also matters in the sense that she has a real personal connection to the stories she tells. You’ll want to hear what she shares about revealing the truth behind the fiction while also protecting her family’s privacy.

We talked about the path she took to becoming a novelist, which included dropping out of a doctoral program in literature to pursue what was calling her. Sometimes "Creating Out Loud," our way takes time to find.

That's one of the things I find fascinating about our creative life. We often have no idea what's going to work. Laurie had an inkling her calling had something to do with literature, but had to find the courage and foresight to say the academic form of this calling wasn't working. So many people lose their juice and fall into ‘why bother?’ because they don't listen to that feeling that it’s time to move on. Because they're afraid of leaving their insular group or comfortable role. They wonder if they’ll be able to do it.

In Laurie’s case, she left prestige and community for what called her, not knowing whether it would work out.  
Whether it’s leaving income, safety, family, or an identity for our creative pursuits, how do we reckon with that? How do we listen to what calls us? You can’t be naive; it may not work. And yet, what do we cut off if we don't listen to the call — if we don't make some kind of space for it in our lives?

This is part of the reason I wrote my book, Why Bother? It's part of the reason I do my work. I think that that call has to be reckoned with or we risk dying inside and losing our joie de vivre.

I believe Laurie was called to create—versus writing about the creative and creators in an academic sense—because her gift is that she just gets story, almost in a savant-like way.

I do think that I think about story in a very fundamental way, like it orders my life, and it orders my thinking. And it is at the forefront of all things; it's the thing that hangs over everything else. But it is also true that it's work to put that together in a very non-romantic, technical kind of way, that is simply moving pieces around, and editing and editing, until it fits and it works together.

You have to hear how she describes structuring her work such that the characters are able to develop and find their own way. Writing becomes like reading to her so much so that what unfolds often comes as a surprise.

But Laurie didn’t come out of an MFA program. She didn’t learn writing. She learned to read — critically. She immerses herself in consuming the art, analyzing it, discussing it, and thinking it through — something we can all do, with whatever our craft is.

We also talk about how she’s navigated earning a living as a writer, respecting her craft as a job. She’s serious about her time commitment, process, development, and growth.

From the outside looking in, people often assume that with success writing gets easier. That’s not always the case.

Some days are better than others. I really enjoy all of the aspects of the writing process. The critical voices are shouted down, I think, by enjoyment of the process. My knowledge that this thing that I have written today—these thousand words that I cranked out—are terrible, is fine. Because that's just part of my process. I'm going to write it really badly and then we'll fix it later...I enjoy writing a shitty draft, and then I enjoy making it better.  

I love that Laurie said she enjoys the process of writing. For years, I used to think focusing on process was kind of airy fairy — that it was all about product, making the sale, and getting it out the door. But the research is conclusive that focusing on process is much more motivating. It helps turn off some of that overly critical function going on in our brain. To not focus on the finish line is much more positive for goal setting.

We can all learn something from this.

And, finally, Laurie gets candid about the other side: PUBLISHING. You won’t want to miss what she has to say!

Join me as we learn how  Laurie Frankel creates out loud.

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