Getting Back to Creative Play: A Chat with Annie Q. Syed

Nancy and I are thrilled that the lovely Annie Q. Syed will be joining us in Breckenridge this summer for our debut retreat offering, Rendezvous in the Rockies. Annie and I spoke a little about creative play, Annie’s favorite story of her own, and an early quiz show experience: 

Hi Annie. Can you talk a little about what it means to make time for your creativity aside from going on retreat? In what ways do you make your writing a priority?

In the Fall of 2017 through AWP’s Writer to Writer mentoring program, writer Gail Hosking choose to work with me for my non-fiction essays. Thanks to her suggestion, I now carry one of those expanding file folders in which I have several pieces that need revising. Ten minutes for looking at verbs, another thirty for tinkering with a paragraph or a sentence, one minute to review the sheet with notes from a writing pal. I have tried my best to make writing a priority by attending to it every day, for however long, instead of imagining there should be a set time during the day when it is a priority. I don’t have the writing schedule that I once did when I could write through midnight and sleep in or write in the mornings and then take a nap.

It’s taken me some time to get used to the idea that even ten minutes is plenty on those exhausting days. I try to spend at least ten minutes on my writing a day. Once I am in that space, the ten minutes turns into thirty and sometimes, if I am really lucky, into several hours. But by creating those ten minutes, I know I have honored what it means, at this stage, to write every day.

Respond to this quote: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” (sometimes this quote is attributed to Albert Einstein) i.e., how much does “play” impact your creative work?

I love words: definitions, etymologies, how they can be used to express analogies, how they create meaning and how we assign meaning, not to mention words lost and gained through translation. I believe engaging with language and sound is play. However, in the last few years, when I decided to become “serious” about the craft of writing, I lost sight of playing. I suppose it happens to all of us at some point. I am happy to report that I feel comfortable to play again; it is essential to creative work.

Annie, what is your favorite story that you’ve written and why? (if it’s a published story, could you provide a link?)

One of my favorite stories is “Watch Yourself Burn”. I created it in one of your Fast Flash workshops. I love the authentic details and movement in it; the whole piece moves back and forth through time in few words. It is currently longlisted for the Reflex Fiction Winter 2017 Prize and regardless of the outcome, I am pleased it will be in the anthology in great company.

What’s something about you that we probably didn’t know?

That when I was kid in New York, my junior high had us take some quiz. It so happened that I was exceptionally good at geography. Apparently, it was a test to qualify to be on that show—if you know this show, it will show your age! —called Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? Once on the show, I was so nervous about lights, cameras, audience, that I didn’t bet enough in the last round and didn’t win first place although I had the right answer! It was pretty cool when it aired on T.V.

Anything else you’d like to talk about briefly? 

I am so thrilled to be attending this writing retreat in Breckenridge, Kathy!

It’s taken me some time to navigate what works for me as a writer. Community is important, no doubt, but what that means varies for each individual. Although a happy extrovert, I am pretty much a helpful lone wolf. I love my solitude and enjoy exploring on my own. A retreat like this is a dream come true for someone like me who enjoys people and their stories but prefers to work alone.

Thanks so much, Annie!