James McCrae - Glamorous Writing Jobs Like Poet or Novelist Don't Pay Well Unless You're in the Top Percentile of Professionals (Writer)

James McCrae

I believe that life should be an exploration, both inward and outward.


1. Tell us more about your background and journey.

I was born and raised in rural Minnesota. Other than open fields, rivers, and farmland, there wasn't much external stimulation to distract me, so I was left alone with my own imagination. 

Creativity was my best friend. My body and mind had plenty of space to roam. Since then, I've moved to Minneapolis, New York City, and Los Angeles. I currently live in Austin, Texas. I believe that life should be an exploration, both inward and outward.


2. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I started reading and writing a lot of poetry in high school. The 20th Century literary movement known as The Beat Generation was a big influence, especially the poet Allen Ginsberg. 

When it was time to start planning for college, there wasn't much that interested me. I didn't know if it was possible to become a poet. But I figured that it somehow worked for Allen Ginsberg so maybe it could work for me too.

It's been a long and winding road since. I actually ended up going to art college and began my career as a graphic designer. But I continued writing while exploring other career paths. 

First, it was a blog, then free eBooks, and eventually published material. Life is long and full of detours. Sometimes it takes a while to become ourselves. There's no hurry.


3. Is it a financially stable career?

Nobody becomes a writer to get rich. Writers become writers because they can't help themselves. It's something they need to do. That said, there are plenty of professional opportunities. Glamorous writing jobs like poet or novelist don't pay well unless you're in the top percentile of professionals. 

But writing is a valuable skill that is needed in nearly all industries. There are plenty of content writers and editors needed, at advertising agencies or with corporations.

There's also a career path in teaching and coaching. It's sometimes better not to monetize your art (i.e. poetry or fiction) so you can focus on creative without the added worry or baggage of making money.


4. Who is your favourite writer and why?

Allen Ginsberg has been the most influential writing figure in my life, as much for his mind and heart as for his actual writing. I've learned a lot from so many. 

Joan Didion taught me technique. Charles Bukowski taught me candour. Bob Dylan taught me to never stop changing. Saul Williams taught me the prophetic power of the spoken work. Random meme artists have taught me an absurdist sense of humour.


5. Where does your inspiration lie?

The creations of other artists I admire, across all modalities. Music is very important to me. I'm addicted to hearing new sounds, lyrics, and melodies. Even pop artists like Taylor Swift or Frank Ocean give me tons of inspiration. 

Music is probably the most potent art form happening right now. I'm also inspired by beauty in all senses: beautiful design, beautiful nature, and people with beautiful personalities.


6. What does your typical day look like?

I try to give myself as much space in the morning to create without distractions before the demands of the day show up. My creative process involved quieting my own busy mind and listening for whatever message wants to come through me. 

I might work on a book, a poem, memes, or drawings. Whatever interests me that day. I don't put much structure around my work or time.

In the afternoon I might do chores, walk my dogs, get some exercise, or clean the house. In the evening I usually eat small amounts of cannabis, drink some kombucha, browse the internet, and continue making art.


7. What piece of advice would you like to give to future aspiring writers?

If you truly want to be a writer, you have to keep doing it no matter what. It doesn't matter if you're making money. It doesn't matter if you're getting attention. All good things take time. 

I look back at the things I wrote a few years ago and cringe at what I said. It's an ongoing process. Have patience with yourself. Accept rejection with grace and humour. And when you think you have already gone deep, go deeper.


8. Which is your favourite book and why?

Depends on the genre. My favourite novel is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez because it creates entire imaginary mythology with one text. My favourite piece of ancient scripture is the Bhagavad Gita because it's the most distilled and simple guidebook for the life I've seen. 

A recent favourite is The Archaic Revival, which is a series of interviews and lectures by Terence McKenna, one of my favourite and most mind-expanding modern thinkers.


- James McCrae (Writer)

James McCrae

Instagram: James McCrae


Interviewed By Khushi Garg

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