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Creative Careers : David Duggins Interview

Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews

‘Spacesuits and Sixguns’ Publisher David Duggins

By Molly Anderson-Childers

David DugginsThis month I'll be rapping with the amazing David Duggins. He's the CEO of Voidgunner Press, and publisher and editor of the online magazine, Spacesuits and Sixguns. Currently at work on a novel and a collection of short stories, as well as a new musical CD, this man of many talents has graciously taken some time from his busy schedule to speak out about creating a fun, fabulous career in the arts. Dave, thanks for joining us!

Q: What was your first job as a young man?

A: I had a paper route from seventh grade until I graduated from high school. My classmates teased me for keeping it when I could have made more money working a fast food job, but I loved it. It was a small town. I walked the whole route and then walked home, which left plenty of time for "daydreaming" stories. And my customers were also a rich source of inspiration.

Q: How did you make the leap from your day job to your dream job?

A: I got hit by a car, that's how. Nothing like a head-on collision with a drunk driver to give you some perspective. I was working three jobs — my full-time Air Force job and two part-time. I wanted to get out of debt and start my retirement on a good footing. But I didn't make that much extra money, and I never saw my family. My kids were like, "who's that guy?" After the accident, I started the websites, which evolved from a hobby into a full-time gig very quickly. It was love. That's the simplest way to explain it.

Q: The publishing world is notoriously competitive. Do you have any advice for young professionals hoping to break into this field?

A: There is no competition. Write inside yourself, from the center outward. Write for yourself. Publishing has the appearance of a competitive industry, but the appearance is a lie. True competition only exists where fixed criteria can be measured objectively. Football is competitive because it's easy to measure who throws a ball farther, who runs faster. There are no objective criteria for measuring creative writing in a meaningful way. What constitutes a good story? Ask any group of five people and you'll get five different answers.

You have no competition. There is only one you. Fill your fictional world with your thoughts, your feelings, observations and philosophies. Live in it. That's hard enough without obsessing over who's number one on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Q: Can you describe a typical day at work? How do you schedule time for all of these different creative projects?

A: I don't — or I didn't until my recent hosting troubles forced me into crisis management mode. I'm still catching up from that. But normally, I have a lot of projects that have "soft" deadlines and I just choose what I want to work on each night. I'm a night person, so my work "day" starts at about 9:30 p.m. and runs until about 4 a.m. I work at least a couple of hours every day, so I don't have "days off " as such — but then, I don't really need them because what I'm doing doesn't feel like work.

Spacesuits and Sixguns has a hard deadline — and I hate the fact that the current issue is late, but it's unavoidable — but I have three months to prepare each issue. I normally have everything ready to go apart from a little polish a full month ahead of time. Again, the work is really enjoyable and I often devote entire evenings to it.

Inspiration is very important to me. Without it, I don't do good work. So I build plenty of flexibility into my work "schedule" so I never feel forced to do something.

Q: Can you please explain the Basic Critique and Deep Critique processes in depth, so our readers will have a clear understanding of how it all works, and how a writer's work can benefit from your critiques? Any information on cost, time commitment, or what they can expect from a critique would also be helpful.

A: The Basic Critique is a two to three-page analysis of your story broken down into ten categories: title, setup/opening paragraphs, plot, exposition, setting, character, dialogue, pace, theme, and conclusion. I address your writing's strengths, what I see as your natural advantages, and break down areas that could be improved.

The Deep Critique builds upon that, with a line-by-line analysis, really digging into the meat of your work. The Deep Critique can be tough, but it is very instructive, especially early in your career. I had one done following several rejections as a young writer. I took what I learned from that and sold the next five stories I wrote — first market, first submission. It saved me months — maybe years — of trial and error, and I have never forgotten what I learned. The Deep Critique costs $47/4,000 words. Additional pages are charged at a flat per-page fee rate.

Author's Note: To fully experience the Deep Critique process myself, I sent Dave a copy of an unpublished short story I wrote a few years ago. It was recently rejected by an editor, and I wanted to find out how I could improve it. Dave's ideas and insights were wonderful. He gave me a lot of great ideas and resources for fleshing out the story's characters, stepping up the action, and improving the overall flow and structure of this work. I found his analysis of the story immensely valuable.

Sometimes, as a writer, you're just too close to your work to see what needs to be changed. That's where a critique comes in handy — someone else can see so clearly the things you were blind to. This story came to me whole, in one piece… it was almost like taking dictation from the Muses, and I was afraid to change it. I think the most important lesson he taught me is that there's nothing holy about the first draft. It is merely a foundation for the completed work… something solid to build upon. Dave, thank you for giving me the tools I need to build the rest of the house!

Q: How do you unwind and relax? What is your favorite way to spend your free time?

A: I watch "Ben 10" with my five-year-old son, "Animaniacs" with my wife, help my daughter change her outfit for the fiftieth time — just hang out with the family. But I don't really need "unwind and relax" time that much because I spend 98% of my time doing what I love. My work is very relaxing. I'm totally loose and in the flow when I'm working. If something prevents me from working, that's when I get tense.

Q: Do you ever feel abandoned by the Muse? How do you deal with feeling stuck in the muck, blah, or just generally uninspired?

A: If I'm uninspired, I do something that inspires me. I don't write every day. Life is about experience. It's about growth. If you're uninspired, it's probably because you haven't learned anything new today. Go learn something new. Do something you have never done before. Then come back and write. Life is not a support system for writing. It's the other way around.

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