When I asked Alex if he was interested in being interviewed about his new life as a writer, he quickly agreed. Please enjoy my interview with Alex below.
Welcome, Alex! For the benefit of those who don’t already know you, will you please give us a 5-second description of yourself and your profession?
Hiya. I’m a Michigan-born copywriter / web cartoonist / aspiring author of fiction.
Why writing? What attracted you to the craft?
I’m an introspective person (or narcissistic, depending on who you ask). Writing allows me to take all the seemingly mundane aspects of everyday life and spin them into something profound. I’ve always admired how authors like Raymond Carver and J.D. Salinger do this. Reading the way their characters light their cigarettes or how they say one thing and do another in the name of propriety, you can’t help but think “I know this person.” And then their experience becomes yours.
Interesting. So how long have you been writing? Would you agree that writing for a living is a difficult road? What were your experiences that led you to where you are today?
Writing was my greatest childhood ambition. When I was in my early teens I started with short fiction and poems, and when I got to high school my first order of business was to join the newspaper. By the time I graduated college, I had more than a dozen notebooks filled with story ideas, scraps of fiction and a very rough draft of my first screenplay.
All in all, I’d say I’ve been writing for around 15 years. And I’d definitely agree that it’s a difficult career to pursue. Although entry-level positions are hard to come by, they do exist. The trick is putting in the time. If a potential employer asks for a writing sample, research the job and find out what sort of assignments you’d be working on. Then write something that matches up. Putting forth this effort will automatically set you apart from the vast majority of candidates. It also helps if you’re willing to relocate, because the hard truth is that most writing jobs are in major cities.
Knowing what you know now, is there anything that you’d do differently if you were to do it again? Put another way, do you have any advice for aspiring writers wanting to do what you do?
There really isn’t much I’d do differently. Yeah, I could’ve tried harder for an internship at a publishing house or spent more time in college writing than going out with my friends. But I’m only 27, and I’d like to think I have a long career ahead of me.
Still, if I’ve learned one thing it’s this: NEVER trust your first draft. In my experience, nothing worth publishing is ever written in one sitting. My advice is to get your idea out, walk away for 20 minutes, come back and revise. Do this no less than five times (trust me, you’ll find something wrong every time) before you solicit any outside opinions. And remember that writing is like any learned skill – you need to do it and do it often. And submit everywhere. Eventually you’ll get that job / acceptance letter you’ve been dreaming of.
Great advice! I agree how rough drafts can be seemingly revised forever, since there’s always something wrong that you missed, or a way to reword something to make it read better.
Regarding “getting your idea out,” would you agree the hardest thing about being a writer is overcoming writer’s block? What strategies do you use for writing even when you don’t want to?
I’ve actually found that the most effective cure for writer’s block is to stop writing. Because it’s whenever I’m away from my desk that my brain goes to work. If you can relate to this, try going for a walk or run. When you’re a mile away from your computer, notebook or even a napkin to scribble on, inspiration will strike. It never fails. Maybe it’s the endorphins, maybe it’s just your brain being a jerk. But trust me, it works.
What is your favorite book/author?
I’m a huge fan of the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams (in fact, I’ve got a tattoo of Marvin the manically-depressed robot on my right arm). I also love The Once and Future King by T.H. White, nearly everything by Steven King and, as I mentioned already, the short works of Raymond Carver and J.D. Salinger.
Would you say your favorites influence your own writing? Do you have other sources of inspiration?
Absolutely. Though it’s really important to develop your own style. For a while I was really into Palahniuk and Vonnegut, and you could see it in my writing. Then when I started reading Carver, all of a sudden my characters were chain smokers. It’s important to note the difference between being influenced by someone and trying to write as them.
You work as a copywriter. Can you describe a typical day in the life of a copywriter?
Copywriting is journalism, marketing and creative writing all rolled into one. At any given time I’m researching a topic for my next article or writing promotional copy for a new product. It’s really the perfect day job for someone who enjoys learning new things.
What do you consider your proudest achievement in life?
It’s tough to settle on just one. The last few years have been full of proud moments – I’ve changed careers, started a website, had dozens of stories/articles published around the web and proposed to my girlfriend, Rebecca. I suspect there’s even bigger things around the corner, so perhaps I should get back to you…
What is your favorite word? Least favorite?
At present, my favorite word is “chutzpah.” Least favorite: “rad.”
What is next for Alex Moschina?
For the foreseeable future, I will continue to submit short works to magazines and journals. I’m also working on writing/illustrating the next 50 “episodes” of my webcomic, Crossed Country (you can see the first 50 here).
Alex, I really appreciate you taking the time to tell us about yourself and answer my questions. To close, do you have any final words of advice for aspiring writers today? And where can we find out more about you or read your copy?
Nike really hit the nail on the head: just do it. If you have a great idea for a story, put it on paper. Now. You can always revise it later. And as far as my output is concerned, you can check out my author page on Thought Catalog or simply Google “Alexander Moschina.” This will yield tons of links to articles I’ve written about technology, investing and other things people are surprised I understand.
Alex Moschina is a creative professional based in South Florida. He’s also a good friend and former co-worker of mine that may or may not owe me some money.
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