What is your creative mission?
To speak my truth. That sounds cliche and it is, but it’s also the motivation of most writers, or most creative artists of any kind. Truth is variable though, of course, and any biographer knows that. Virginia Woolf once wrote: “A biography is considered complete if it merely accounts for six or seven selves, whereas a person may well have as many as one thousand.” If as a biographer I can come close to capturing Woolf’s seven selves, I’ve done my job.
What do you love about what you do?
Oftentimes writing a book is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, only in this instance you don’t know exactly what the puzzle pictures, or how many pieces there are, until you finish.
And you’re never really finished, even if you have to turn it in at some point. That quest for the great, untold story — the shadowing of true self that has been lost to history until now — is what drives me to biography.
What have you learned from your successes/ failures?
That even incredible books don’t often find an audience. I remember seeing Taylor Branch’s prize winning biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — which I think is one of the most important biographies of all-time — on the remainder rack at a bookstore. I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned is that you create the work because you believe in it, and the work itself is separate from commercial success.
How do you keep pushing ahead after a difficult challenge?
You get up, and you get knocked down again. It’s like that ’80s song. If you only do things that you are good at you will never learn anything.
Writing is hard work — and it’s difficult emotionally. But most writers don’t have a choice: they do the work because they must.
Have you ever encountered resistance from family, friends, or the world in general? How did you overcome those kinds of blocks?
Are you f-ing kidding me with this question? Of course. The entire world doesn’t want you write. The entire world wants you to be playing video games. Call of Duty earned more revenue than any book, film, or play ever has. But see answer above.
How has your art and creativity healed you?
That’s too long to answer. But certainly writing a book — Heavier Than Heaven, about Kurt Cobain — and hearing from kids by mail who themselves have suffered from depression, or addiction, made me feel like my work helped others with healing, or at least understanding that they were not alone. And that has helped heal me, at times. This issue is complicated.
What are your NFA Bullet points? What steps would you recommend for anyone who wants to kick some ass and get their creative dreams off the ground?
Be like a Nike ad. Do ten minutes if you can’t do ten hours. Do ten seconds if you can’t do ten minutes. And then do it again tomorrow.