SP: Hey John! So glad to have you here on the Spinning Pen! Not only are you Medium famous but your slogans for a certain unnamed major tech company, are literally everywhere. Can you get me an autographed version of one of those airport billboards, because that would be great! Ok, putting on my semi serious hat…let’s talk about YOU and WRITING!
SP: You crank out a plethora of witty articles on Medium, have 52K followers, and an incredibly active fan base who regularly engage with your writing. How did you build this mighty empire??
JG: So, I kinda built it on accident. I wrote most of my pieces between 2014 and 2017 for an audience of no one. I jotted them down on Medium just to get them out of my own head, and if people read them (narrator: they didn’t), then all the better. Late in 2017, I had a story go viral and so I started 2018 by re-releasing my entire back-catalog of essays in the first 100 days. That put me over the “top”—to the extent that Medium semi-fame is “top”—and now here we are.
SP: People talk a lot about the importance of voice and finding it. It’s like the newest click-bait for authors. You, however, have a truly raw and authentic voice that’s refreshing. What has your journey been on the path to finding your voice? Or was it ever lost to begin with?
JG: So it’s funny: Some people write like how they feel a writer should sound. Some people write like how they talk. I tend to write exactly how I think. My writing voice is really just my inner monologue, or the way I wished I would sound when speaking to people. I don’t do a great deal of editing unless I plan on placing the essay somewhere other than my own self-published space. I think it, I type it, I clean up the grammatical errors.
SP: Rumor has it you signed with an agent without ever having written a book. A) Can you confirm said rumor? B) If this rumor is true, how on earth were you able to get one without having written a book?! Any tips for the rest of us trying to get an agent?
- This was true. This, however, fell through.
- The agent approached me, but after the pandemic hit, they decided they were going to refocus back on their highly-specific niche—since they were floundering in selling memoirs—so now they just shop cookbooks around. I can hardly blame them for making that decision.
SP: In some of your articles, you talk about existential crises, not liking the words you’ve written, and other common challenges everyone riding that creative struggle bus encounters. What advice do you have for fellow seatmates on that bus? Asking for a friend of course!
JG: Honest to god, I think if you don’t learn to hate most of what you’ve written in the past—particularly if it’s in a first-person style—then you haven’t done, or aren’t doing, enough growing in your life. So if you look at your back-catalog one day and think, “what was I thinking?” Then congrats, that means you’re probably a better person today than you were then. When it comes to being creative, you can only look at everything you’re making as a snapshot. Nothing lasts forever. You die, your words lose their meaning, your thoughts and opinions fade and you replace them with new ones. I think if you’re really cognizant of who you are and how you grow, then you reach a zen-like point of realizing most everything you think, feel or make is temporary and probably not all that exceptional. That’s very freeing. It allows you to change and learn and not be too precious when it comes to hoping your next work will be your best work.
SP: What’s the hardest part about doing what you love? What’s helped?
JG: The hardest part of doing what you love is finding so many different ways to hate doing what you love. Whether it’s writing for someone you don’t like, or writing about something you don’t care about, or doing all the ancillary marketing and tweeting and “personal branding” that is time you wished you could spend just making art. Worse still, sometimes you can realize that what you used to love doing just isn’t what you love anymore. I used to write about sports, but I didn’t get my big break on that front until long after it stopped being enjoyable for me. I make a ton of money as a freelance copywriter, but I burn out on it quickly. I think the only things that help are: 1. Taking a ton of breaks to go out and do other things—which is extremely hard to do during the pandemic because our “vacations” are now in, like, the other room. 2. Finding new topics to write about, new clients to write for, or new places to write. The variety is really the key to ensuring you don’t end up hating the medium altogether. I haven’t quite gotten to that point yet, thankfully. I still love words.
SP: What’s a question I should be asking but am not?? Or just a question you really want to answer…like who gave you the brilliant idea of writing a book in the first place? *Wink. Wink*
JG: LOL it’s never been an idea for me to write a book. Publishing a book is a slog and there’s a ton of imposter syndrome that comes along with the decision to push through the publishing process. Like, I don’t follow up with people in that regard … hardly ever. I keep thinking, “Oh, who actually wants to read this?” “Don’t we have enough unexceptional white dudes who write books about their opinions and feelings?” And yet I’ve already put in the effort to write, so I feel as though if I don’t put it on a shelf somewhere, no one’s going to believe I’m a legitimate writer … least of all, me. I’m certain that line of thought looks more like an ouroboros eating its own tail.
SP: Ok, we’re almost done and it’s time for the lightening round! Early bird or night owl?
JG: Night owl until I turned 35. Then I stopped getting drunk regularly and my circadian rhythm flipped entirely. Now I prefer to wake up at 5:45am, drink some coffee, read, meditate, go for a run and then come home to shower and get my butt in the chair by 9. It’s all done wonders for my mental health, although I do find myself basically “quitting” on the day when the sun goes down, which is fine … there hasn’t been anything else to do at night in over a year.
SP: Most obscure hobby?
JG: I make my own hot sauce. This was my true dream career long before I considered word-wrangling.
SP: Word you can never spell? This may be a trick question.
JG: Oh man. So, so many. They have to come in context, though, for me to remember specific words. Let’s just say I’m grateful for autocorrect.
SP: Worst job?
JG: I was a marketing director at a magazine for like six months back in 2011. Sounds awesome unless it’s then that you realize people management is not only not your skill set, but one you have zero interest in ever acquiring.
SP: Alright, time’s up! We’re so sad to see you go! Womp. Womp. BUT…there’s way more where this came from. Where can we go to read more from you?
JG: johngorman.co is the website. It currently redirects to my Medium page, but it will soon be a full-fledged website you can go to. Maybe I’ll sell hot sauce there. You won’t find out until you visit!