I interviewed Steven Hobbs in May 2014. The following essay was based on that interview.
Mr. Steven Hobbs is a current member of the Instructional Staff for Letters at The College of New Rochelle. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from The New School as well as a Masters of Arts in Religion and Literature from Yale University. He teaches several writing and religious courses at The College of New Rochelle; however, Steven is also a very talented writer who is currently completing his first collection of short stories for publication.
I interviewed Steven in his office at the College of New Rochelle. This office décor is what I like to call, “Male Yale”. It is accented with dark wood, mood lighting and a plethora of books on shelves and anywhere there used to be a surface. Although this office is conducive to writing, the majority of his writing isn’t done in it. His writing venues are divided between three other locations. The first location is his apartment where he has a home office that is dedicated to his craft. He also hunkers down at two coffee shops in his neighborhood in Greenwich Village, New York; Third Rail Coffee which is located on Sullivan Street and Grounded Coffee which is located on Jane Street. Both of these coffee houses are quaint and cozy sanctuaries for writers.
Steven dedicates no more than three hours a day to his writing. He wakes up, showers and eats breakfast and then he submerges into the world of writing for a few hours each morning. He does this before all the distractions of the world pull him away from his goal. Fiction writers, need this level of discipline in order to produce. In this field, his only major job responsibility is to sit down and write. His success is dependent on two things; a set schedule and his willingness to show up. A fiction writer has to travail through his or her work in hopes that a puff of inspiration blows by them and they can ride on its current. There may not be much variety in his daily actions or locale; however, as a fiction writer, every time he sits down to write, he is thrust into a new adventure.
I asked Steven if a formal education in writing was necessary to succeed at the craft. He said, “There are several undergraduate courses that are helpful. These would be courses that emphasize Creative Writing as well as any course that deals with Literature. However, a college education is not required to become a writer.”
He continued by stating that there are writers who are self educated and self directed and have become successful in the craft. There are writers that have gone through Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) writing programs and have become successful.
There is no one formula for success in this field. Although, Steven feels most of the better writers come out of the M.F.A. programs, and he recommends this route. He said, “An M.F.A. program allows one the space and time to write as well as work with other writers, professors and mentors. It also allows one to become a part of a coterie.” He went on to mention that being part of a coterie is invaluable to writers who may be isolated.
It has been documented that it takes approximately 10,000 hours to become an expert in most things. People who follow this career path usually have been writing for years and from a very young age. Therefore, they have amassed thousands of hours in the craft and have become proficient. But, being a constant writer isn’t enough; people in this field are constant readers as well. Writers read a lot and tend to learn the art by studying those who have mastered the craft.
Steven loves to write. I asked him what he likes most about it and he said, “Being able to create something beautiful through language is what he most loves about it.” He went on to say, “The telling of a story is a noble pursuit.” One he does efficiently but not without effort.
Extreme effort is one of the things he dislikes about being a writer. Many people don’t realize that getting a story from your imagination onto the paper is not easy and never takes a direct path. To be able for a writer to get exactly what he or she wants to convey into a form that is coherent, well written and entertaining can be daunting. “I am a painfully slow writer, it is one of the things I dislike about writing,” he said.
Steven chose to be a writer because he likes to tell stories. He had great literature teachers in high school that fueled his desire. He also won a writing contest in the second grade that was no doubt the catalyst for his choice of career. I asked him which writers influence him and his writing. He mentioned several such as: George Saunders, Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver, James Joyce, J.F. Powers and Junot Diaz. He prefers to read short stories as this is his specific fiction genre.
I asked him if it was difficult to balance his day job with his writing lifestyle. He said, “My job as a Professor of Letters fuels my own writing. I am able to read and discuss works of fiction with my students and ideas come and flow.” He discovers new ideas daily and the exchange of information is wonderful.
All writers have an ideal writing scenario. What is his? He is living it. There are not many people that can entwine two careers they love which complement each other. I could be envious of him, but I’d rather be him.