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Creative Careers : Jurgen Wolff Interview

Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews

Author and Writing Coach Jurgen Wolff

By Molly Anderson-Childers

Jurgen WolffWelcome back, readers! I am very pleased to be interviewing Jurgen Wolff this month. Jurgen is a writer who teaches creativity and right-brain writing workshops around the world, and has written half a dozen books, including "Your Writing Coach." His screen credits include the feature film, "The Real Howard Spitz," starring Kelsey Grammer, and more than 100 produced episodes of various television series, including "Relic Hunter," "Benson," and "Family Ties," as well as his animated series, "Norman Normal."

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

A: The earliest was a disastrous attempt to sell Christmas cards door to door, during which I quickly found out I'm not much of a salesperson. Next my father got me a Saturday job serving behind the counter at a deli owned by a friend of his. Being a vegetarian, I was not ideally suited to this — I didn't know which meats and sausages were which. I lasted two Saturdays.

During high school, I worked in the school library as a shelf reader. That entailed making sure that the books were shelved according to their Dewey Decimal System numbers. I'd do that while the popular kids were pretending to do homework but actually flirting with each other or throwing spitballs at the shelf readers.

My first proper job was working in the circulation department of the local newspaper. My task was to answer the phone and pacify the people whose newspaper hadn't been delivered that day. It's interesting how enraged some people get when deprived of their newspaper.

Q: How did you transition from those early "joe-jobs" to the work you're doing today?

A: Even though those early jobs didn't have much to do with writing as such, they did give me an excuse to be around books and newspapers, I guess that's the connection.

Q: Can you tell us what inspired you to write your fabulous book, "Your Writing Coach," and give our readers something to look forward to when they read it?

A: I'd been teaching writing workshops around the world and a lot of the participants said that the methods I use helped them to overcome writing blocks and to approach writing in a totally different way that made it easy and natural. I wanted to find a way to share those methods with more people, and decided to do the book and also to use the website to add material (such as video interviews) that you can't include in a book.

Q: With all the "how-to" writing books on the market, it can be difficult to choose one. What makes your book so special — so unique — so different from the others on the shelves?

A: My book reveals a right-brain approach to writing that I don't see in other writing books. I start with a look at the fears that often stop people from writing (or finishing what they write), and how to overcome those. I also tackle the issues of how to motivate yourself, how to deal with rejection, and a lot of other psychological aspects of writing, as well as the more traditional craft elements. I think too many books take kind of a mechanical approach and point people toward methods that strip away their individuality.

Q: On your website, you state that two chapters are missing from most books about writing. Can you speak to that, and let us know what we're getting from your book that we can't find elsewhere?

A: In addition to what I've said above, the book has a chapter on the new media. I think there are going to be tremendous opportunities for writers in the new media — which is reflected by the fact that the Writers Guild of America is willing to go on a very painful and costly strike in order to try to make sure that they will share in the profits from this arena. I believe it's vital for writers to educate themselves about what's happening in this field. There's not much money in it yet, but there will be, and there is the chance for writers to innovate and participate in shaping this new landscape.

I think one example of this is how I've used the web site that goes with the book. In the book, at the end of each chapter there is a code word. If you go to my writing website, and type in the code word, that unlocks additional material that supplements and enriches what's in the book. For example, there are video interviews with Robert Cochran, who co-created the series, "24," and with a top agent and a successful novelist.

The book also has a chapter on guerrilla warfare for the writer. Every other book I've seen is still telling you just the traditional approaches. I cover those in one chapter, too, but then I added a chapter on unconventional marketing techniques that writers can use to stand out in today's crowded marketplace.

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