7 Questions for Austin Kleon

1. When teaching your poetry in my class, I found that black out poetry was empowering to students who were not confident in their own vocabulary because they could use existing language. How else can blackout poetry encourage students to tap into their inner creativity?

In my experience, writing is best when you think about it as something you do with your hands—when you think about language as something that comes out of the body that you can move around in space. It’s just like pushing around Legos—you have these little simple pieces, but you can build something as simple or as complex as your imagination.

2. What writers and artists have inspired you the most?

I love so many writers and artists, but I’m especially drawn to those who both write and draw—people like Lynda Barry, Kurt Vonnegut, Saul Steinberg, and Charles Schulz.

3. You seem to be able to balance your 9-to-5 job and writer life very successfully—what advice would you give to those who feel like they don’t have enough time to write?

It’s really simple: you just figure out what time you can carve out of every day, and you write every single day. Repetition is the key. If you write a page a day, it doesn’t seem like much, but at the end of a year, it’s 365 pages —enough for a book. I wrote my first book in 6 months, on the bus ride to and from work and on my lunch break.

4. You’ve worked with blackout poetry in everything from newspapers to the iPad—what is the difference between working with print media and digital media?

Working with paper still engages the most senses—you get the smell and the touch. With the iPad you only get the touch. Print is permanent—you make a mark, you can’t get it back—and digital is endlessly editable. Paper, you can spread across the room, digital, you only see what’s on the screen at any given moment. Both good and not so good.

5. In your TEDxPennQuarter talk, you advocated for a restructuring of the publishing process—how do you envision blogging and social media affecting publishing?

It just means that authors can speak directly to their readers instead of waiting on a middleman and the slow process of book publishing. It also means that an author is expected to gain an audience first, and then publish a book. Again, both good and not so good.

6. Out of every huge pool of writers blogging on the internet, only a few go viral. Which qualities separate these people from the rest?

I suspect it’s the same thing that separates all writers: good work that resonates with readers vs. work that doesn’t.

7. We imagine you carrying a Sharpie with you everywhere you go. What’s the craziest thing you’ve blacked out?

I’m a pretty boring, law-abiding guy: I stick to newspapers.