In his debut collection, Pain & Longing, D. Michael Hardy combines unflinching, soul-searching poems with gorgeous black and white photographs in a compelling exploration of the razor's edge of solitude.
Steph Post: How do you handle writer’s block?
D Michael Hardy: Whenever I’m feeling stuck I put on music – jazz, darkwave, trip hop - something that conveys the mood of the piece I’m working on. Music has saved my life on countless occasions, and it almost never fails to trigger the flow of words when I start thinking I’ll never be able to write another word again. Going for a long walk, especially after dark, when there’s nothing but you and the stars and the creatures of the night, also helps clear my head of all the distractions life throws at you and get my head back in the game.
SP: In your eyes, what does it mean to be a “successful” writer?
DMH: I think for me, being a successful writer means putting out the best work I possibly can, something I can look back on after six months or twenty years, and be proud of, and hopefully enough people enjoy it. And I’d like to make enough money to live without having to work a day job. I think that’s the more realistic dream for most writers. I’m not really interested in making six-figure book deals or winning awards. If those things happen that would be amazing, but it’s not why I write.
SP: Do you have a set routine as a writer?
DMH: In a way. I mean, I write whenever I can, but because of my day job I usually write from around ten p.m. to midnight or a little later on the weekdays, unless I go out, which I rarely do these days. I like to write at that time because everything else has been taken care of, work and emails and chores, and I can focus solely on the writing. Sometimes that involves some whiskey or wine, and knowing I don’t have to go anywhere and can just crawl into bed when I’m done is a huge comfort. I also like to write early on Saturdays, for a couple hours between breakfast and dinner, and then the rest of the weekend I can be free to enjoy at my leisure.
SP: What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
DMH: It’s not advice I’ve received personally, and I’m sure most every writer has already heard this, but it was to write the book you want to read. I’ve held onto this piece of advice more than any other, and it’s almost like my mantra when I sit down to write. The stories and poems in my head are what I want to read most, so I do my best to transfer them to paper. Ultimately, at the end of the day, you have to be proud of the work you put out because once it’s published it no longer belongs to you and your name is on it, and you have to be able to stand behind it. And whether people like my poetry and forthcoming novel and whatever else I write in the future, or they hate it, I know I need to be proud of it. And I’m proud of this book I’ve just put out, so that’s what truly matters to me.
SP: What single book has been the most influential to you as a writer?
DMH: For poetry, hands down it would have to be Charles Bukowski’s The Pleasures of the Damned. I think his greatest poetry is in that collection, and if you’ve never read him before it’s a perfect book to start with to truly get a feel for his poetry. He’s my biggest influence when it comes to poetry, so I can’t recommend him enough. His poem “Eulogy to a Hell of a Dame” is beautiful and never fails to bring me close to tears. Of course, Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis was the book that, when I was young, convinced me that I wanted to be a writer. That book completely changed my life.
*Originally published on Steph Post’s blog, available here:
Friday, April 13th, 2018