If you’re reading this you’re no doubt a smart, moderately attractive businessman/woman and likely don’t have the required 10,000 hours spare it takes to become an expert in something. You probably have 10 minutes though, so why not use them to learn something from one of our expert interviews? Today we’re shooting a breeze with poet, blogger, and all around excellent person, Khara House.
Via her website, Our Lost Jungle, Khara offers words of inspiration from great writers of the ages and encourages her readers to be as creative as possible, as well as promoting and sharing her own work. Can you convince people to create something new and awesome every day for a month? How important is reader interaction? And will Khara be the first person to bust a rhyme on our blog? We asked her to find out.
On your site’s bio you identify as a poet before everything else. How do you feel being a poet has altered the way you approach blogging and freelance content creation?
Maintaining a focus on writing will always be an important part of who I am, and what Our Lost Jungle is about. The poet in me is always playing with words, and fascinated by the ways in which words and language shape our perceptions of and experiences in the world. In terms of blogging and freelance writing, a focus on the poetry in and of language makes me pay extremely close attention to the words and expressions I use to get a message across to a reader. A lot of careful “economics” goes into poetry—an economy of words—which makes every sound and syllable important; I try to translate that into any writing I do, including blog posts, freelance articles, etc.
Your bio also notes that your writing “focuses on the journey toward discovering the lost jungle of the written word.” Can you elaborate on this statement and what it means?
The “Our Lost Jungle” title actually came from a poem on the nature of imagination. The “lost jungle” of the written word, then, is the place where we allow our words to “play,” to grow beyond the dictionary definitions, and inspire. I’m very deeply interested and invested in word play and experimentation with language. So often the focus in writing is on the “technical” aspects: proper grammar, sentence structure, and what often are seen as the rigid rules of writing. While these things are important, one of the most important lessons I ever learned was that you learn the rules of writing so you know when, how, and why to break them. The “lost jungle” is all about playing with breaking the rules and seeing where it takes us.
I clicked on your “Goals for Greatness” link. What was the thought process behind creating this? How much of it have you accomplished so far? Have you solved the zombie crisis? Or are you holding onto the secret to trade for something else on the list?
The Goals for Greatness came from two places of thought. Exploring goals as a blogger came from a phenomenal platforming challenge hosted by Robert Lee Brewer; one of the platform challenges was to set your goals, both short-term and long-term. The idea of the goals for greatness list also came from a personal goal of mine to take myself less seriously in 2012. I was in a place where my future career was uncertain and I was setting extremely high expectations that left me feeling very much like a failure no matter what I actually accomplished. I decided that I needed to ease up. I already write daily goal lists of what I need to accomplish for real, so I decided this list should be more fun: a list of both goals and things that just, in general, make me happy. I’ve only actually done a handful of the things on the list (1-5 definitely) … including, I think, solving the zombie crisis. It’s more of a personal solution, and I’m definitely not sharing it … yet.
I also checked out your entry on the thirty by thirty challenge, in which you encouraged readers and fans of your blog to create a new piece of content every day for the entirety of June 2013. How did it go? Any awesome success stories you’d like to share?
The Thirty-by-Thirty Challenge was a lot of fun, especially in getting to read a ton of great writing and see a ton of great art created by participants. I think the greatest “success” of the challenge was just that people were participating at all; that folks felt any motivation to even try to create thirty new pieces in thirty days is a success for each and every person who participated. I like to think it went well. And I like to think that if anyone created even one new piece during the challenge they consider that a great personal success.
Following on from that, how did asking your readers to embark on such a large undertaking go down? Were they excited? Apprehensive?
I take the challenges on Our Lost Jungle from taking the “pulse” of the writing world I’m part of; when I see a lot of writers wanting something—whether it’s a chance to create something or a nudge to get their work out there—I try to provide it. So it often feels like when I’m asking readers to take part in any challenge, I’m really just tossing a loose idea into the ring in a slightly more structured form. I think those who participated were probably a mix of excited and apprehensive; it really is a huge undertaking to create something new, whether once a day or once a month or once in a blue moon! So to take on this kind of a challenge took a lot of courage—and, of course, creativity—from those who jumped into it with me.
I can guess that this challenge was inspired in part by the NaNoWriMo challenge, in which you write a 50,000 word novel in a month. How did committing to doing that amount of writing in such a short period of time affect you as a writer and content creator? What did you take away from it that you’ve since applied elsewhere?
Actually, the challenge was inspired by a group of poet friends who would get together and challenge ourselves to write thirty poems in a month. Since I know a lot of my readers are fiction writers and bloggers, I wanted to make it something any kind of creative person could participate in. I actually wound up counting coming up with the prompts as my creative effort for the month (along with some sketches and novel planning). A big challenge like this is, needless to say, a huge time commitment. I was posting, responding to participant emails, reading dozens of blog posts, and so forth on a daily basis. I think the biggest lesson I took from it, personally, was that creativity can crop up anywhere, and take on just about any form. We just have to be willing to let it sneak up on us and take it wherever it leads us … take it, and let it take us.
I noticed that you also respond to a lot of the comments on your site. How important is reader interaction to you? What are the benefits you see to it?
Reader interaction is extremely important to me. I’m all about having conversations, so I don’t want any readers to think that when they take the time to respond to something I’ve written it goes unnoticed. I want it to be a conversational opportunity for both sides. The biggest benefit is that it shows the reader that what they think about whatever has been posted is equally as important as what was posted. I think that personal response also could be a big encouragement to someone else, someone new to the site or someone shy to post a comment, to feel free to share their thoughts. Giving a reader that space and freedom to exist within “my” space is so important.
In one of the more popular posts on your site, “I love my blog: keeping the “♥” in each post,” you note that writing for the sake of writing is a bad idea and that deciding not to write if you’re not feeling the groove that day is one of the hardest choices to make. That post was around a year ago, are you still in that mindset now?
Oh, very much so! In July I took a bit of a vacation from posting on Our Lost Jungle. In this case it wasn’t because I had nothing to say; by the end of June I’d finished hosting four writing challenges, and just needed a small break. Whether a writer has run out of steam or simply can’t think of something to say, taking a break is an important part of the process. It gives you time to refuel, and keeps you from burning out.
Outside of avoiding writing just for the sake of writing, I also recommend both necessary and “unnecessary” breaks from writing. An unnecessary break is one taken when you actually feel the urge to write—whether it’s a poem that’s trying to get out or an article you want to research—but hold off until you can’t anymore. It’s kind of like Christmas: you could open all your presents a few days before Christmas, but there’s something about the anticipation that makes every gift that much more precious. The same is true for writing. You could force it all out, or you could wait until you can’t wait anymore and let that anticipation, that sheer joy of getting it out, take you over and fuel your fire.
That said, do you have any tips for getting in the mood when it comes to writing? Any jams that get you pumped for cranking out a post?
My favorite thing to do to get in the mood to write is read. I’ll flip through a poetry book or thumb through a magazine, or find my favorite passage in a novel. Sometimes I’ll play a favorite album an jot down lyrics and lines that stand out for some reason. There’s an album by Max Richter, The Blue Notebooks, that always makes me want to write something.
Finally, it’d be a shame to not ask a poet to spin out a poem, could you perhaps share a little something you’ve wrote with us?
Of course! Here is one of my most recently published poems, first published by The Faircloth Review:
Hung on to
There is an imaginary light tucked inside your
mouth. Reflecting the surface of imaginary waters
you roll with your tongue, heavy with fish
that spread themselves like rib bones. This morning
I will walk across your water, pile
your bones on some pier against the wind.
I traverse you bone to bone, succor the puckering
plums you roll in your gut—
they have been longing to fly, and I appease them.
So many petaled remnants of wings
you tuck between your teeth, your toes.
Let us liberate them together beneath the belly
of the moon, the heavy rolling gut that creeps
like succubae across the sky. One last shadow
tucked back beneath your thigh, and then we can go.
To see more from Khara you can find her on, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. To see more of her work, you can check out her website, or if you’d like to contact her directly, you can do so at: email@example.com