Up, Close and Personal
Our Celebrity Guest Author – Matt Nagin
Tell us about your yourself?
I’m a writer, actor, and comedian. Some of the struggles I’ve faced include crohn’s disease (three surgeries), getting hit by a car crossing the street, and a high-level of failure and rejection as a creative type. But, in recent years, I have had some success. My first poetry book, “Butterflies Lost Within The Crooked Moonlight,” obtained very strong reviews and a short film I made, “Inside Job,” has been in a number of festivals and won awards. I’ve also been lucky enough to obtain a wide-range of acting parts–which–however small–have helped me evolve. All in all, I consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue areas of real interest.
When did you first begin to write?
I began writing at age 16. My very first impetus to do so was watching Oliver Stone’s “The Doors.” This all now sounds faintly embarrassing. But watching Jim Morrison prance around and stage and rant about being The Lizard King got me into poetry. I started reading poets like William Blake and Emily Dickinson, and, soon enough, began filling up notebooks with songs, lyrics, and poems–most of which were rather unusual (even by my own very odd standards). During a summer program at Penn State (which I attended while still in High School), I took Creative Writing, and, after sharing some of my work with the class, was hooked. By the time I was studying English at Cornell I was also writing fiction and screenplays–and–in some form or other–I’ve been writing ever since.
How does writing make you feel?
It, most often, makes me feel incredible. It can be a high. Certainly, there is a therapeutic component to it all. This is all particularly the case in the first draft. The first draft–that draft of discovery–is really where most of the magic happens. It is also the most enjoyable part of composition for me. Then I tend to go back and revise–which can quite often be gruelling, even excruciating. Certainly, it is way less amusing. More Apollonian versus Dionysian (for those who’ve read Nietzsche’s “The Birth of Tragedy”). But this part can be enjoyable too–in it’s own way–particularly when you have the feeling that you got it right, you said what you intended to say (or close to it anyway). In sum, I’d say that, as a whole, I’ve yet to engage in any activity I enjoyed more than writing.
How would you describe your career?
Career? I might use the title of a Dreiser Novel…”An American Tragedy.” Just a joke! Don’t shoot! My career–if you want to call it that–has had a number of highs and lows. As a writer, in particular, I’ve obtained a ton of rejection. Rejected screenplays, novels, stories, poems. I’ve probably had thousands of rejections–if not tens of thousands. That said, of late, I think I am seeing a slightly higher percentage of work being accepted. Also, I think all the rejection and the struggle has somehow helped me in certain ways–find my voice–locate more of a personal direction–and gain solid ground in terms of knowing better who I am and what I want to say. I think I am finding my way on the page more clearly every day–and that–if I have some luck–promising things might just be on the horizon. No one knows what is coming–of course. But I do have a few projects underway that I feel have real potential. So I’m hopeful–very hopeful–that the best–for me–is yet to come.
What advice would you give to those trying to seek out their dreams?
Go for it. Jump in. What do you have to lose? Life is a gamble. There are no certainties. It is perhaps easy for me to say this–as I have had opportunities others have not–but I do feel–regardless of circumstances–if you can find a way to go after your dreams you might as well take a shot. Be practical about it. Figure out how to make a living–of course. For me that is teaching–among other things–but, in the end, if you don’t take your shot–if you don’t try–you may never forgive yourself or even feel any degree of happiness. It’s not worth it to sell yourself short. It’s really a bad deal. My other piece of advice is to study all those who have come before you. If it’s writing–read as many great books as you can. Study story structure. Know what an inciting incident is and how a three-act structure works. Analyze great stories and novels and then forget all that you know. Return to the page. And just let your mind scream. Learn it and then forget it. Because you need to know what has come before, but not be beholden to it. You need to exceed it. You need to make your own way.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’ve just completed my next poetry book and am currently seeking a traditional publisher for it. It is 78 poems, 12 of which were published in literary journals over the past year. I also have a humour book–a book of satires/parodies–a few of which were published–that I hope to find a publisher for in the next year as well. Finally, there is a novel on my desk–about half complete–that I am intending to finish–once I have the opportunity to really focus and give it the attention it deserves.
What are your future plans?
I hope to publish more books–obviously–and–in addition–at some point–set up some kind of foundation or organisation to help writers who are struggling financially. Writing is sometimes undervalued by our society. We want the pretty image, the flashy video game, the 3D movie–and these are all great. But everything starts with words. This is the alpha and omega. There is something primal about writing. It goes back to the old storytelling traditions. Sadly, in certain ways, that is being lost–in the digital age–where silly cat trick videos get millions of views and real artists often flounder in obscurity. That said, I’d hope to do what I can to encourage literary innovation and excellence.
Finally what life quote would you give others to go by?
“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better.” –Samuel Beckett
You can learn more about Matt HERE