Ten questions with Michael Howard

We chat to the incredibly interesting and talented, Michael Howard.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? Or did life step in and change your plans?

I’m an Engineer by profession and ended up writing a lot of reports as a consultant. Pretty drab stuff. There’s always been a part of me that’s attracted to arts and creativity. Over the past few years my Engineering field has experienced a lull in South Africa, so I’ve had more time on my hands, which I’ve used to play around with the more creative side of writing.

What was the first book that you wrote?

I’ve only written two. The one mentioned above and then, last year, a fictional tale titled, “On The Fifth Night”. The fictional one was better received, although I must say, I hardly marketed the first one at all. It’s strange that I did not write anything for about fourteen years. That’s a story on its own – how my life has ebbed and flowed – maybe one of these days I’ll write it. It would be a fascinating autobiography I think, including my wife Gina’s deterioration and eventual death in 2009, tied up in parallel to the deterioration of South African democracy as I witnessed it from the perspective of multi-million dollar engineering projects.

Out of all your books that you've written which has been the most well-received?

I’ve only written two. The one mentioned above and then, last year, a fictional tale titled, “On The Fifth Night”. The fictional one was better received, although I must say, I hardly marketed the first one at all. It’s strange that I did not write anything for about fourteen years. That’s a story on its own – how my life has ebbed and flowed – maybe one of these days I’ll write it. It would be a fascinating autobiography I think, including my wife Gina’s deterioration and eventual death in 2009, tied up in parallel to the deterioration of South African democracy as I witnessed it from the perspective of multi-million dollar engineering projects.

Out of all your books, which one did you enjoy writing the most?

I loved writing “On The Fifth Night”. It just flowed out of me with the first draft done in six weeks or so, if I remember correctly.

Do you have a specific place to write?

One of my chairs in our cottage evolved into my favourite place early on in writing “On The Fifth Night”. Turns out I wrote just about all of the book sitting in that chair. But, I’ve hardly sat in it since. I write my blog articles and poetry in another room altogether. It seems this new spot is king for now.

What's your cure for writer's block?

Meditation. It’s the art of letting go. Writer’s block is nothing other than a congestion of thoughts. There’s no block once you let the congestion clear out. Our minds naturally clear out when we let go and they are naturally creative in this clear state. We just have to let go of the efforts we make to be creative. When we let go through the practice of meditation, newness tends to emerge. I think this is not necessarily going to happen right off the bat. It requires some trust. But the habit of letting go and trusting in your own innate creativity is generally rewarding. Maybe you won’t write the same story. Maybe you won’t write the same genre. Or perhaps you won’t even write, but instead be moved by music or doing something creative in the garden. Our culture has made art a task… and ironically that is the death knell of true creativity.

Your favourite books?

Rumi’s poetry

Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”

“Open Mind, Open Heart” by Thomas Keating

“Dup Departs” by Gavin Mills (Gavin is a local Indie Author. I read it over the 2016 December holidays, cover-to-cover. It’s the first fiction prose that gripped me from beginning to end in a long time.)

You can have dinner with four authors or literary characters, who do you choose?

Kahlil Gibran. It’s particularly him because he comes from the same area of the world as my forefathers – a neighbouring village in the mountains of northern Lebanon.

Stephen King

Sherlock Holmes

James Bond (in some exotic location surrounded by Bond girls, ha ha)

When you're not writing, what are you doing?

Developing my new baby – Mindmark. It’s a conference centre, tea garden and spiritual retreat centre in a gorgeous part of the Magaliesberg mountains. We have an Indie Author Book Fair coming up there on. But, I strictly limit my work and creative drives to spend time with the most important things in my life, my wife and three children. Ultimately, it is their love that gives my life meaning and rejuvenates me every single day.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Without fail, I start each day with meditation at 04h30. What I do next depends on whether I’m on duty for taking the kids to school or not – I alternate every week with my sister. Then it depends if my vegan wife has remembered to buy milk for my coffee or not. My days’ vary tremendously. That’s mostly because I have a lot on the go. Usually I don’t do any creative writing until later, if at all. My wife and I don’t watch much TV. We do spend most evenings, after the kids have gone to bed, sitting opposite each other tapping away on our respective laptops. If I haven’t got too many emails to catch up on, I might write a bit of whatever I feel like. Then I meditate for anything from five to fifty minutes. It’s usually early to bed and sleeping by 10pm.

Links:

www.michaelhowardworld.com

www.mindmarkworld.com

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