VAH: What’s your full time job – writing, or something else that sustains you so you can write?
ME: I worked in the insurance industry for 13 years before recently leaving to start my own business as a fitness and wellness coach. While I was working in insurance, I had a lot of professional success juxtaposed with a lot of personal unhappiness. The most fulfilling part of my job was watching my employees succeed. The least fulfilling part of my job was the amount of time and creative energy required to do it well and navigate the politics. The pay was nice, but I found myself in an endless cycle of earning and consuming. I hit bottom at a depressed 320 pounds in September of 2009.
Between 2009 and 2011, I embarked on a weight loss journey that totally flipped my life upside-down. I started running and strength training, I moved back to New Hampshire from Illinois, I got divorced and I lost half of my body-weight. 160 pounds later, I was still working in Insurance leading a team of analysts in Portsmouth, NH, but I had my eye on a new life.
I married my wife, Jenn, in May of 2011, and we downsized and simplified our lives to make room for the things we wanted most. In 2012, I left my insurance career. After a lot of travel and exploration, Jenn and I founded Destination Fitness (http://myfitnessdestination.com). Our goal is to make a modest living by helping others find fitness, prioritize themselves and their health and enjoy life a little bit more.
VAH: Thanks for sharing your story of transformation. Stories like that give hope that life can be so much more than drudgery of work.
One of my least favorite aspects of the work of writing is when I can’t get the words out to the page. When the blank page stares back at you, what gets you past writer’s block?
ME: In my experience, the best way to get past writer’s block is to give up on quality for a little while. For me, writer’s block comes out of the desire to write something excellent on the first pass. Obsessing over the words will only slow down and possibly hinder your writing. Good or bad, you can always change, improve or delete a passage later. I think it’s best to just let yourself free-write without judgment. There’s usually some gem to be mined through that process.
VAH: Brass tacks of the writing life – what do you do so you can keep up with what you send out and results of your submissions?
ME: Two words – Microsoft Excel. Once an analyst, always an analyst. It’s actually a pretty simple document. I have a tab for open submissions, a tab for accepted submissions and a tab for rejected submissions. If I really wanted to geek-out and chart my progress, I would put them all on the same tab so that I could pivot the data, but it’s really not that complex. I submit sporadically. Sometimes I have a good feeling about a press or magazine where my work will fit well, and sometimes I shoot for the moon. So far, shooting for the moon typically means rejection. When I’ve gotten lucky, it’s come in the form of serendipitous timing and saying ‘yes’ to a chance opportunity.
VAH: That’s a pretty simple question on the surface but it’s become interesting to me the variety of methods writers use to keep track of what they send out.
Let’s talk a moment about what you’re your favorites. Do you have a favorite poem or story?
ME: I think I’d have to go with The Sunflower Sutra by Allen Ginsberg. I have an audio track of him reading it, and it is a poem that elevates me beyond whatever troubles or worries may be going on in my day-to-day life. I especially love the last stanza, the “sermon.” You can read the entire poem at the poetry foundation’s site.
VAH: Do you have a favorite author and why?
ME: Definitely Jack Kerouac. I love to travel, and I love road trips. I also love the way that Kerouac saw the world around him, digested it and put it down into words. I don’t love everything Kerouac has ever done. I can do without his drunken ramblings and the posthumous pieces dug out of the attic by someone looking to take advantage of his persistent fame. I’ll take the lost, introspective, self-conscious, Buddhist Kerouac of The Dharma Bums any day.
Thanks Martin! The conclusion to a conversation with Martin Elwell on Three by Five will post on November 23rd. Until then, enjoy this poem by Martin Elwell – Excel Poem.
Martin Elwell’s Twitter.
Blog: Words Per Gallon.