In William Zinsser’s book “On Writing Well,” he says that every piece of writing is basically problem solving. As we write more, with thousands of words passing through our typewriters (computers), we see a commonality to problems. Each has a solution, and the more problems we solve, the more we learn what the solutions are. In my case, I was an advertising copywriter. I figured out other people’s shit every day. I dealt in small areas (short copy, in other words). Over the years, I wrote short stories, creating other problems and other solutions, but building on each until I wrote a novel, then another novel, then a third. Again, moving from one problem/solution to another, except in larger context. At some point, I got interested in children’s books by people like Shel Silverstein. Here was problem/solution in a very condensed form, but not less daunting. If anything, it was more daunting. Then I started looking a lyrics, breaking down how someone like Robbie Robertson wrote “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” and Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” The problem/solution became even more condensed, but ultimately there was always an answer. I realized the happiest people always find a new problem/solution, one that’s more condensed, more concentrated in knowledge. Artists, scientists, mathematicians are all the same way. If there’s a secret to life, I would say this is it.

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I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

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