This week, we interviewed Isaac Timm (he/him/his), who will read some of his work at the Helicon West meeting on 23 February 2023. Isaac is a poetry and fiction writer.
Helicon West: Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where did you grow up, and what did you study in school?
Isaac Timm: I was raised in a working-class family, or more truthfully as a member of the working poor in rural western Utah. I’m the first in my family with a college degree. Which proved fairly difficult, with a handful of learning disabilities, and Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative muscle disease.
My family struggled through most of the 1980s and 90s, when the prices of precious metal such as gold and silver fell, my father and family in general made its living by mining. Without that income, my parents, brothers and myself took any labor job to keep a roof over our heads.
While our father worked long hours, he imparted a love for reading, stories, and history. Some of my earliest memories are of my father reading to us with machine oil on his hands.
I earned two bachelor’s degrees at USU, in History and in English, so I didn’t stray to far from my father’s influence.
HW: What role does writing play in your life?
IT: Storytelling and stories were always important to me, and while reading and writing was difficult, I was also able to find shelter in stories, many told by my father.
Also, my brothers had very large personalities that overshadowed mine, so writing became a way to feel visible.
HW: How do you find consistency in your writing practices?
IT: Writing is my profession, so a consistent schedule is important. Not that I manage successfully scheduling, but I do manage to continue writing or revising at least four or five times a week. Also poetry comes easier to me than any other genre so I’m able to write a poem or at least a good fragment consistently. I keep notebooks near me all the time, and use my phone. I’ve been using Google docs a lot lately.
Not really an issue with poetry but when working on novels or short stories, I can get locked into the creative process and forget important tasks like eating, or looking up. So I need real scheduling, like writing or revising for a limited period per day, breaking writing time up, and not writing after six or eight. I try to keep a separation between writing time and personal time. One, to retain my sanity; two to remain married.
HW: What role does publication play in your writing?
IT: Most of my work that’s been published is through the League Utah Writers and can be found in multiple anthologies they’ve published. My poem “Prosody of Fuck” was published in Sugarhouse Review in 2020.
I’m terrible at sending my stuff out, and selling myself in general. Also getting to reading can be very limited due to my wheelchair, but the necessary Covid lockdown and my fear of public speaking are more to blame. If I didn’t have friends and mentors in my writing group and my writing community I’d never get anything out. Star Coulbrooke, Shanan Ballam, Brock Dethier, Tim Kellor and my wife are the reasons for the success I’ve had. Their faith in work is what keeps me going.
HW: What advice do you have for new writers?
IT: Create a mental distance between yourself and your writing. Don’t take criticism of your work personally. I understand that the act of creation is taxing, and the writer puts a lot of effort forward but the reader isn’t with you and doesn’t understand your motivation. Readers come to your writing with only their knowledge and experience. A rejection of your writing isn’t a rejection of you.
Also, finding a group of trusted friends or writing group to read and review your work is important. It’s vital if you’re going to go public with your writing. Sharing your writing with others is a big step. Once you share a piece of writing, it’s out of your hands.