How to Live Life is about helping people live happier, more effective lives, with a deeper sense of purpose and a clear understanding of what life is all about.
What inspired you to write this particular story?
As a dedicated writer and teacher of writers, I have lately come to realize that my purpose extends beyond helping creative people execute their craftsmanship and toward a place of deeper impact on how people in general make the choices that guide and shape their lives.
What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I think that readers will most be drawn to the interactive aspect of how to live life. Through gently guided exercises, I demonstrate how the reader can think about anything – even previously dangerous or emotionally taboo topics – without judgment, resentment or regret.
What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?
I hope and trust that people will understand the powerful union of passion and purpose in their lives. The math of it is simple: passion + purpose = power.
What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?
When you’re writing a book that offers even the slightest whiff of “the one true truth,” you’re bound to get some strong internal push-back. Every day with this work, I found myself thinking, “Where the heck do I get off, telling other people how to live life?” But it’s weirdly meta for me, because one of the key ideas in the book is that true happiness rests on self-acceptance, not external validation. Over and over again I say, “Don’t care what other people think!” Yet every day while writing the book, I couldn’t help caring what people might think. This demonstrates that even teachers are students – and woe become the teacher who isn’t.
What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
Actually, this part right here. Oh, not writing the answer to some interview questions – I can talk about myself all day, no problem – but rather the underlying self-consciousness surrounding how to promote a book with strong and unequivocal ideas. As a novelist, I know how to hide inside my characters. As a writing and poker coach, I know how to be strategic. But writing and sharing my deepest truths requires an unprecedented level of openness and honesty from me. In how to live life I tell my readers to accept their fears; goodness, how can I persuasively arrive at that advice if I will not face my own? Hence, with this book, I “throw it out the window and see if it lands.” Hardest thing I’ve ever done – and this is my 25th book!
Do you think writing this book changed your life? How so?
Profoundly. It forced me to articulate my beliefs and my strategies for living life effectively. It engaged me with the larger questions of life, death, God, meaning and legacy, all in a way that made every writing day kind of a thrill. And it led me to something I’ve always wanted: a rational grounding for faith.
What has changed for you personally since you wrote your first book?
Hair. Hair all gone.
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
I was born a secular Jew, which meant that open-mindedness was part of my philosophical package from the start. Most people in the place and time of my childhood (California; late 1960s) were encouraged to find our own path and Path in this world. I took that encouragement and ran with it; I’m running with it still.
What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
I live at my desk. There’s no place I’d rather be. (Hey, look, I’m there right now!) So my writing schedule is shot through with eagerness. I’m at my desk and writing by nine, pause for a dog-walk around noon, and continue as deep into the afternoon as my coffee and energy last. When I’m writing novels, I try for 1000+ fresh words a day, but with fiction and non-fiction alike, the real work comes in rewriting, where word counts are an irrelevant metric. Then it’s just a matter of time – putting in the time. I understand that I am twice blessed: once blessed for having the real desire to write; once for having the freedom and leisure to do so.
Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?
I like to write in the morning when both my brain and the coffee are fresh. Conversely, by the end of the day I’m likely to enter a state of mind known as “cheese brain.” At the onset of cheese brain, not only will I no longer make progress, I’ll actually start to hurt the quality of the work (because I’m tired and cranky and don’t care). At the onset of cheese brain it’s very important that I stop for the day.
Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was it?
Back when I was a folk singer, and had recorded my first (and only) album, I met senior folkie Tom Paxton and asked him for his advice, now that I’d done a record and all. He said, “Do another. Keep doing them until someone makes you stop. Build your product line. It’s where your future lies.”
What advice you would give to an aspiring author?
If you want to get better, write more. If you want to get a lot better, write a lot more. Nothing substitutes for words on the page.
Describe your writing in three words.
Honest, funny and spellcheked.
Where can people learn more about your books?