(Christopher Gray is the author of From Shy to Social, which offers confidence-boosting tips, insights and exercises for “love shy” men)
Interviewed by Nate Hendley
What motivates you to write? Is it the promise of money, fame, power, recognition, self-fulfillment or something else?
Ideally, I would like to make a living by writing. I’ve had a few different careers so far in my professional life, ranging from technical writing to sales, to project management. Up to now my writing has usually been somewhat sporadic, and I’ve reached a point where I would rather it be front and centre. So to answer your question, I’d say that it is a career choice. Also, should any of my work help or inspire people I would get a strong sense of satisfaction from that. And a little recognition along the way would be a nice bonus.
Do you have any “tricks of the trade” that help you kick-start the creative process?
When starting a new project I always sit in front of the computer in ‘brainstorming mode,’ where I don’t worry about writing, but I jot down any one-word ideas or sentences related to the subject. Every twenty or thirty minutes I’ll get up from my desk and pace the house, while saying aloud any thoughts related to those initial ideas (even when a project is well under way), which helps me come up with new ideas. As soon as I hit on an interesting concept I return to the computer and work it into the project.
What is your book, From Shy to Social, all about? Who is it aimed at?
From Shy to Social: The Shy Man’s Guide to Personal & Dating Success is the kind of book I could have used fifteen years ago, when I was extremely reserved and wasn’t having much luck with women. A lot of guys, of any age, have trouble talking to women or have general social anxiety and don’t socialize much. My book is based on some of the successful things I did to turn my life around and gain a much more satisfying dating and social life. It’s aimed at any guy from college age on, who might be at a loss as how to successfully interact with women, to older divorced men who may be intimidated at starting over.
Have you published before? What made you decide to write a book?
Outside of a few articles I wrote for my University newspaper, my first published work was shortly after graduation when I wrote a couple of software and hardware product reviews for Canadian and British computer magazines. After writing a few pieces for these magazines I found full time work as a technical writer, and my freelance work lay dormant for a few years. But over the next decade and a half, as a reserved person unsatisfied with the direction my life was going, I decided to look for a solution. I talked to dating experts and psychologists, took acting classes to get over my fear of public speaking, and became active in my local constituency, among other things. Once I reached a certain point in my progress I realized my journey had the makings of a good story, and so I wrote From Shy to Social.
What are your “de-motivators” (i.e. things that take away your drive to write or steer it to an unproductive place)? How do you cope with these de-motivators?
The biggest de-motivator is nice weather, when I’d rather be outside walking and enjoying the city. Sometimes on those days I write in the morning and evening, leaving some time for me to go out in the afternoon. However if you do this too much you will become unproductive, so I compensate by writing in the evening, and on weekends if I have no other plans.
Do you have any role models who inspire you in your personal and professional life?
I admire people with a good work ethic, and who are adept at public speaking, because I know how hard it can be. I also admire those who have attained success, in any field.
In your opinion, is talent overrated? Does society put too much emphasis on skill and not enough on will?
Will power is the key. Even extremely talented people can sabotage themselves by not devoting the energy required to do good work. If you aren’t particularly talented at something, you can usually get better through dedication and effort.
(Nate Hendley is the Toronto-based author of Motivate to Create: A Guide for Writers, available in paperback and on Kindle. He has also written several other works, primarily in the true-crime genre.)