Last summer the TreeHouse editors were honored when writer Ian Prichard agreed to share his thoughts on creativity in a guest post for our site. The result far exceeded our expectations, so naturally we wanted more. As he writes regularly for his own site, At The Wellhead, and has been working on his debut novel, Cleo, Prichard’s time and creative energy are precious–so we were all the more grateful and excited that he agreed to allow us to interview him for a discussion of how bloggers keep the content flowing. Once again, he delighted us with his wit, charm, and insights. We hope you will enjoy his thoughts as much as we do!
An Interview with At The Wellhead’s Ian Prichard
TreeHouse: Is At The Wellhead your first attempt at blogging? If not, what came before?
Ian Prichard: It’s my first serious attempt. I first registered for a WordPress account in 2007 – for “Poseidon’s Lair” or something equally horrible – but like most things in my life at that time it went nowhere. I’m sure that’s just as well.
TH: What initially drove you to create At The Wellhead?
IP: “Exposure.” That ubiquitous They are always telling emerging writers to “establish an online presence,” and a year and a half ago I finally said, “All right! All right! I’ll do it!”
I’d talked down about blogs for a long, long time, and thought I didn’t want to “waste” my time doing it because I had so much “better,” “more important” work to do.
But then I was in a lull with that important work, and I was at a point in my life where kind of just going along with established wisdom about certain things was working, so I figured, “why not?”
TH: From where do you derive inspiration for content?
IP: I know that “everywhere” is a lame answer, but it’s true. News, radio, novels, Buddhism books, movies, billboards, people’s cars and the way they drive (I live in LA), Facebook, other blogs, stuff at work, things I see on runs or hikes or out in the ocean – everything. I think of half a dozen posts a day, probably, even now, when I’m not really writing very many. As of this morning, there are 58 drafts posts on the site, which range in length from a phrase to several thousand words. “Inspiration” isn’t the problem: finding time for the “perspiration” is.
Primarily, though, At The Wellhead is fairly navel-gazey, and there’s always something about me, myself or I worth writing about.
TH: How much time do you devote to creation and maintenance of the site?
IP: I finally pulled the trigger in the middle of a second night of insomnia in December of 2012, used a basic WordPress design and had a post up the next day.
Last winter, I grabbed the URL (atthewellhead.com) and my friend Adam Kerpleman helped me redesign the site. It’s more robust than a standard WordPress site, but it requires more maintenance. Which is probably (a small) part of the reason I haven’t been posting as much since switching over. It’s a shame, because it’s such a better-looking site and I want people to go to it, but I’ve just been busy/lazy since rolling it out.
But I’d say between writing, editing, finding pictures and laying them out, each post is five to ten hours of work.
TH: Where do you see At The Wellhead headed?
IP: The blog’s subtitle is “Soundings From a Protean Aquifer” – which is a fancy way of saying “whatever I feel like talking about on a given day” – and I’d like to keep it in that space.
I’m writing a couple of profiles right now, and there’s so much interesting stuff that won’t fit in the articles they’re paying me to write, so ATW could be a space for “the story behind the story” kind of thing, as I hope to continue to sell interesting work.
I’m going to France in May and plan to do a travel blog/recap when I get back. The blog forces me to line up some of the pinballs banging around in my head, so I’m sure I’ll continue to use it for that. I would like to rotate the lens a little, to spend more time looking out than in. But that requires a lot more work and how well I succeed at it will be a function of the time I have to devote to ATW.
TH: Who are your readers? Do they comment and interact with you often?
IP: Mostly it’s the standard personal blog readers: my fiancée (“wife” if you’re reading this after May 10th hooray!), my parents, my sister, a handful of friends. A couple of those friends are really, really smart people, and while they’ve never commented, whenever we catch up they bring ATW stuff up as if continuing a conversation. That’s really rewarding.
One reader, Rigzen Chomo, stumbled upon ATW via a “Buddhism” tag and comments on every post. I love interacting with her and getting to know her. She’s my one conduit to the “blogging community” and those anonymous friendships one hears so much about. She’s almost like a pen pal. It’s pretty cool.
TH: What do you see as the pros and cons of blogging?
IP: I made a joke about exposure earlier, but in all seriousness the blog has brought some attention and even some paid work my way, so it’s definitely “paid off” in that respect.
One of the major pros is that, unlike any kind of paid writing gig you’re ever going to get, there’s no word limit on my blogs. I know that a lot of people stop reading after a thousand words and that I’d likely increase readership if I wrote shorter posts, but I feel like my métier is the 3-5k-word essay. And, that’s what I like to read.
The biggest con is that it’s just one more thing I feel like I could be doing much, much better than I am.
TH: What blogs do you follow?
IP: Broadside, by Caitlin Kelly. Insightful, witty, honest pieces on the freelancer’s life, on life in New York, on the economy, on traveling, on a random but interesting assortment of cultural…stuff. I really like her can-do/fuck-off attitude.
Archetype, by my good friend Michelle Arch. Stuff about life and work and writing and running – with 17th-20th century poetry and art that ties it all together.
Generación Y, by Yoani Sanchez. A slice-of-Cuban-life about/for the generation “born in Cuba in the ’70s and ’80s, marked by schools in the countryside, Russian cartoons, illegal emigration and frustration.” Super interesting.
TreeHouse, of course.
Otherwise, most of my reading is done in books – novels and Buddhism and life sciences.
TH: Do you feel your blog posts have helped your other writings, such as the novel you’re working on? Care to tell us a bit about it and your experience writing it?
IP: I’ve always written slowly. Painfully slowly. So slowly that my New Year’s Resolution in 2013 was to write one blog post a week and one short story a month in an attempt to get over my inertia. I ended up doing 30 posts and got through August with the stories (they ranged from 4-8k words) before I felt like I’d turned a corner and could approach my novel, Cleo, again.
Five+ years ago, I had this great idea for a four-part California epic spanning five centuries, narrated by six people. In early 2012, with the draft at about 400 pages, I was advised by several people to maybe think about doing something a little more straightforward. So I decided to trim it down to a 200-page coming-of-age story told by one narrative voice. But I couldn’t actually bring myself to do the paring away. I wrote a little here and a little there and outlined the new book fairly precisely, but there were still 400-some pages I couldn’t cut in that file that I wouldn’t open. So I started the blog and started the story writing and then, in August of last year – about 18 months after the decision – I scrapped everything that wasn’t part of Cleo’s story. I wove in the new bits and pieces, which left me 60 or 70 pages, and just started trucking from there, until I reached the last period early last month.
Having the outline certainly helped, but having that year of producing and deleting large numbers of words was invaluable.
At The Wellhead has also been a place to experiment with voice in a way I wasn’t previously comfortable doing in fiction. I took my fiction too seriously. I took myself too seriously. This was the only benefit of my ridiculous and longstanding dismissal of the blog form: before it melted away under the realization of the skill and dedication blogging can require, my arrogance gave me the freedom to fuck around. The last couple years have been full of getting over a whole host of misperceptions and insecurities and taking-myself-too-seriouslys, but having this happen in the writing arena is the most rewarding – and the most promising – of the sea changes I’ve “suffered.”
Now I feel like fucking around is, if not the point of writing fiction, at least half the fun.
Ian Prichard is a guest blogger for TreeHouse, works at a water district by day, and writes by night. He is the recipient of the 2013 John Fowles Center for Creative Writing Fiction Award, and the 2013 Terri Brandt Joseph Award for Outstanding MFA Student at Chapman University. His sports writing has appeared on The Post Game, he is shopping stories, and his first novel, Cleo, will be completed this year.
Visit At The Wellhead here: http://atthewellhead.com/
Read Prichard’s “On Creativity” here: https://treehousearts.me/2013/07/08/on-creativity/