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How to be a writer like Pete Andersen

Here's another archived interviews from our books, Be a Writer & Be a Better Writer. (An updated edition is out now.) See what makes other writers tick. Catch up on the series here.

Pete Andersen is one of the best story-tellers I know. He has a sense of history and knowledge of pop culture that make him a master at his craft. He's also extremely curious, which only ever killed the cat, not a writer that I know of. Even in high school, Pete was a prolific writer, cranking out plays and stories faster than most folks could read them. As an adult, he wrote for community newspapers and magazines, and was a technical writer for Microsoft. When he's not writing about computer software, he works on novels, screenplays and essays -- oh, and lists!

Be A Writer Like Pete Andersen

Peter-Andersen-at-Hemingways-Havana-House

I took this picture of Pete at Ernest Hemingway's house outside Havana, Cuba, in 2015.

1. What kind of writer are you?

By day, I'm a technical writer, which means I write manuals that are supposed to help people use computer software. By night, I do the kind of writing that actually allows me to call myself a "writer". I write stories, screenplays, novels, whatever. I'm always working on about a dozen projects, getting ideas for more all the time.

2. Why do you write?

Because I go crazy when I don't.

I think every person finds many ways to express what they're feeling through art, movement, relationships, whatever. For me, my main form of expression has always been writing. Thoughts grow in my head and need to find a way out -- writing is my outlet. I can write them, look at them,deal with them, and sometimes even learn about myself. (Most writers I know are surprised by how much they learn about themselves through the writing process). It's very important to me -- so important, in fact, that my discovery as a writer wasn't that I could write, but that I couldn't not write. It's just part of who I am, and I'm lucky to have discovered that.

I like getting my views out there for others to see. Some people tell me that my writing helps them see things differently, and to appreciate things more. Everyone has a gift, and I think once we find that gift, we're obligated -- and privileged -- to use it to make some contribution to our community. I try to do that with my writing.

3. What made you want to be a writer?

Well, funny thing -- I didn't! And that's the reason I know I really am a writer. I never set out to be one, and I never really wanted to be one. But at some point in my life I discovered that I am one. That's how you know it's real. When I started telling friend that I'd made this discovery, and that I was a writer, they all laughed and told me they'd known it for years.

4. What advice would you give a fellow writer?

I had a terrific writing teach once who told me: "I can't teach you to write. No one can. That's because it's not something one person gives to another person. It's something you already have inside you. But what I can do is try to help you bring some of it out."

In other words, don't look to someone else to show you how to be a writer. You have an incredible, untapped talent inside you. Respect it. Find ways to bring it out! Your ways will be unique to you.

Writing is subjective, so be prepared to be critiqued, panned, dismissed and most of all rejected. All great writers go through this, and you can, too! It actually shows you're doing your job. Remember, writing isn't about you and the critics. It's about you and the page.

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