Scott Andrew James is an inspirational poet and speaker who believes in everyday magic and the power of creativity. At home on a 1946 Smith-Corona typewriter, his work has been widely featured online and in print. His three booksof poetry have brought peace and comfort to readers from all over the country. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and daughter, and their pug.
1. What gets your motor running?
Deep, authentic conversations. Wrestling with hard questions. Debating what constitutes a good life. Right now, I’m just enchanted by watching my daughter draw.
2. Tell us about a work of art or literature you feel is woefully misunderstood or underappreciated.
I love Trout Fishing In America by Richard Brautigan. I love everything by him, but that book in particular changed my concept of what a book was and could be. I took it as a license to go and do whatever I wanted to with books and words, and I still do. Go read it, and have your mind blown wide open.
3. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I think I’ve always been a writer, from back when I was little. But there was a moment about ten years back when I decided to take my typewriter to a backyard open mic here in Austin, to a party they called the Feast of Fools. It was there that I started writing instant typewriter poems, like I do now. My heart came alive that night, and ten thousand or so poems later, I’ve never looked back.
4. You write your poems on a 1946 Smith-Corona typewriter. What do you think we’ve lost as a society by switching to computers and word processors? !
I think of it more as different options. Writing by hand, writing with a typewriter, and writing on a computer are all totally different experiences for me — each has its magic and its limitations. What I love about the typewriter is its immediacy. You type it and it’s right there. No printer, no nothing. Just magic, right there, in your hand. I love it.
5. You’re a big believer in “the healing power of creativity.” What would you say to someone who believes they simply “aren’t creative”?
I would say to take a day off work and go make something. Take a hike in the woods and hum to yourself. Go play with a little kid and let them make the rules. We’re all creative. The question is what we do with it, and how much we embrace it. Creativity is a health food.
6. You write poems on the spot, using prompts from strangers. Why do you prefer this to writing more slowly and carefully?
I love the opportunity to stop thinking and just open up and let the writing through. And I love the framing of each poem as a gift to that audience of one — it keeps the poems alive, personal, yet still rooted in the universal themes we all share.
7. How do you take your whiskey?
I stopped drinking years ago, so I’d say at this point I take it home, wrap it up, and give it to a friend as a gift.