Scott Laudati, grandson of Nancy Norton-Taylor ‘50, is a poet and fiction writer whose first novel, Play the Devil, was recently published by Kuboa Press. The Bates Student asked Laudati about his career as a young writer and his thoughts on art and the creative process.
What were you doing in Canada?
I was attending a wedding for a girl I knew who ran some of my poems in her magazine. I’d been arrested a few weeks earlier #Occupying Wall St. and my arrest showed up in the “supercomputer.” They eventually let me go but I had to sign a document saying I wouldn’t attempt to overthrow the Canadian government while I was there.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Maybe after an uncle gave me On The Road. Or when I first heard the band Bright Eyes and was blown away by the lyrics. 14 or 15 was when I started putting words onto paper.
Any tips for aspiring writers?
I still don’t know “the formula.” I’ll spend hours writing something I think is great and it will get rejected everywhere. Usually the things you get down in five minutes are the ones that do the best. Just don’t quit. Early on, your writing will be terrible. And later, most of what you write will still be bad. But there are moments when something else takes over, and the words don’t even feel like they’re yours because they are perfect.
How do you define poetry?
The first time I experience anything, it’s poetic. And the important feelings, like Love and Hate, they’re always poetry because they are so rare in their extremes. Every girl has something completely unique to fall in love with. And the world gives you a new thing to hate every day. Poetry is easy to find. Just drink a strong cup of coffee and go outside. I guess trying to define poetry is like trying to define God.
How does your mindset shift when you are writing poetry compared to when you are writing prose?
It doesn’t really change. If I’m drunk or it’s 3 am, I’ll write poems. If I have eight hours, I’ll try and work on something longer.
How much of your creative non-fiction actually happened?
Most of it. My twenties have been pretty nuts.
What is your writing process?
I stay up later than everyone else. And I don’t watch TV. Usually 11 pm-4 am is my writing time. I also smoke a tobacco pipe while writing. I’ve found this more helpful than booze.
What’s your best quality as a writer?
I don’t need to be forced to write. So I don’t need to “get away” for a weekend or get an MFA so I’m on a deadline. I just need a song or a painting or something that makes me say, “I want to create something that important.”
What’s your worst quality as a writer?
I overwrite like I’m being paid by the word. Most of my writing time is editing down excess words.
What role does humor play in your writing?
A huge role. I’m lucky because most situations I get myself in are very funny at my own expense. I just try and turn my bad luck into a story.
What is the purpose of art?
I used to think it was to educate. Or leave a time capsule behind of what happened in our era. But now I’m not so sure. Our government and society seem so bent on making it impossible for artists to survive, I don’t know if there is a purpose. What used to be a tool for consciousness expansion has been watered down to entertainment, to make the day a little bit easier to get through. Entertainment is stupid. It’s “The Hunger Games.” It’s Katy Perry. Those things are like mental painkillers And after an hour or two, you never think about them again. Art shouldn’t have to make you feel good. It should be a mirror that makes you confront this dystopia we’re all racing towards.