Writing on the Go: My Interview with Carrie Morgan

Posted on March 14, 2015

This is a cross-post from the Military Writers Guild Medium.

Writing on the Go: An Interview with Member Carrie Morgan 

When last I left you, Ty Mayfield was perfecting the old fashioned, writing in his Moleskine, and prepping for another deployment. Continuing this series of interviews with Guild members, I am looking to reveal their writing routines. I’d like to discover what rituals they have for preparing for their lives as writers. I’m interested in how they find inspiration for writing, where they find creativity, and where they find their passion.

For my second Guild interview, Ty recommended I reach out to Carrie Morgan. Carrie is a novelist with a regular career, who wrote The Road Back from Broken — a novel about a family affected by war trauma. The wife of an Army veteran, she is a stalwart ally and advocate for all kinds of military families. From the start, she let me know that she does not get up as early as either Ty or myself and I would quickly find out that in action she finds the words — lots of them.

[John DeRosa ] What time do you typically wake up? What does the first hour of your day look like? What are some of your daily routines?

[Carrie Morgan] My daily routine in the morning is to get up around 6:30–7:00 am depending on how early I have meetings. My routine is get up, get ready, go to work. I may not do anything in writer’s space in the morning.

[JD] Describe your creative space.

[CM] I may do some writing during my lunch hour at work, a couple hours each evening after work, and especially on the weekends. That’s when I can get really good chunks of writing done working three or four hours at a time.

[JD] Can you describe those different writing periods and how you get into the mode of writing?

[CM] I think I would describe it as “writing on the go.” When I do write during my lunch hour at work, it’s “writing on the go.” If I’m on a business trip or travelling and I’m in an airport waiting for my plane, I will open Google Docs and catch whatever has been bubbling in my brain. Or I may just go over what I have already written and add a few lines. My writing routine does not involve a preparatory process where I get myself in the zone. I just try to capture the time to let the ideas in my head out. That also may be note taking and jotting down ideas about a scene.

I do very little writing on paper. I write mostly in Google Docs, on my laptop or in my iPhone or iPad.

[JD] You are using any device to capture your ideas wherever you are at?

[CM] Yes. If I do write on paper — you know, for note taking — I use a “Rite in the Rain” notebook that I keep in my purse or backpack. But I usually don’t write out a scene longhand. My writer’s brain is connected to my typing fingers and not to holding a pen.

[JD] Is it then the action of writing that gets you in the space of writing?

[CM] Typing, whether it is on a keyboard or into a device, is connected to my writer’s brain. The ideas flow more readily for me if I am just getting the information down. They flow less if I am trying to write things down with a pen.

My creative space is wherever I am. I am known to park myself at a Starbucks if I need to find some space and time to write. At home, my writing space is sitting on the sofa with my laptop. I don’t have a writing room or writing space that is separate from my living space. It’s just my husband and I so that is why I don’t have to carve out a writing space.

[JD] When you are “writing on the go,” do you have to block out everything else around you? Do you have to be in a quiet space?

[CM] I actually don’t like quiet. I find it really distracting. I always have music going either at the house or on my headphones. I drown out the ambient noise. For example, when I was in college I never studied in the library because the silence was distracting.

[JD] How does your routine change on the weekend? Is that also on the go or do you schedule a time for yourself to write?

[CM] For the most part, I schedule my writing on the weekend. After talking with my husband to determine our plans, I can find myself chunks of time that I can devote to writing. I am able to block out time, but it tends to be a negotiation with my husband since writing by its nature is a solitary activity.

[JD] Is writing differently than how you decompress on the weekend?

[CM] When work has been crazy, when my week has been crazy, writing becomes a filter that I run my consciousness through. When I am done with that process, I feel recharged, regenerated and restored. Writing is my decompression.

[JD] What are you reading lately?

[CM] My birthday was just the other day.

[JD] Happy Birthday!

[CM] Thanks. My husband bought me Charles Glass’ book, The Deserters. It is about deserters in World War II. I am also reading a book a friend of mine wrote. She just wrote a sequel so I am a beta reader for her. I am also reading a memoir called Prairie Silence by Melanie Hoffert. It is about a young lady who grew up in a rural town and moves away to live an urban life and then comes back home. It is about her experience as a gay woman coming back to this small town. It is a narrative I am reading as I gather ideas for one of my book projects. I’m also reading the Center for Military History’s account of the “Green Ramp Disaster” at Fort Bragg in 1994. The Green Ramp Disaster plays an important role in the book I am now writing.

[JD] How do you find what to read? Are you reading out of preparation?

[CM] Right now, I’m in the mode of gathering ideas for my next project. I am looking for things that deal with subjects I am writing about.

[JD] Is there a genre of reading you prefer?

[CM] I write fiction, but my pleasure reading is nonfiction. The last fiction I read was People of the Book. Yet that reading gets disrupted by having to get back to writing and then my reading becomes supportive of my writing.

[JD] How do you determine what you are writing about?

[CM] Currently I am writing a sequel to my first novel. It mostly is about following the family I wrote about in The Road Back from Broken and their assignments in the Army. It also focuses primarily on the wife and how the formative experiences of her life affect her in the present. That’s why I am reading about the “Green Ramp Disaster.” One of her formative experiences was working as a nurse at Womack Army Medical Center when the Green Ramp accident happened.

I find resources as I go. I will jot these ideas down into Google Docs. I write my narrative at the top and keep my resource notes at the bottom of the document. I need to keep my research notes close to my writing.

[JD] What is the book you’re most likely to give as a gift or one you’ve given as a gift the most?

[CM] I don’t think I have an answer to that. I tailor my book giving to their interests. I saw Ty’s answer of Siddhartha and I loved that answer because it is one of my favorite books. I don’t think I have given the same book to different people.

[JD] What is the book you recommend the most to read?

[CM] I have probably recommended John Fowles’ book The Magus more than any book. If they are not ready to make the commitment to read that book, then The French Lieutenant’s Woman by Fowles.

Also, I love Hemingway; although I don’t write like Hemingway. If someone’s only experience with Hemingway was with reading the Old Man and the Sea in high school, then I will recommend For Whom the Bell Tolls which is a richer, more interesting book.

[JD] What bold steps would you like to see the MWG take?

[CM] I would like to see — and I think to some extent this is already happening informally — the Guild form critique groups. This is a big commitment if someone has written a book-length project. Looking over somebody’s 1,200 word blog post is easy enough. However, a 90,000-word novel or a 120,000-word travel memoir is a big commitment for a beta reader.

[JD] I love that idea! We do pass things informally between each other.

[CM] We can get reviews from readers but it is something else to get a review from another writer.

[JD] Thanks, Carrie! This was fun!

[CM] It was great meeting you! This was cool. I am interested in hearing about how others respond to the critique group idea.