Ben Kritz [benkritz]
When you accept a job, how much value do you place on each of the following? Money, creative liberty, visibility, and to work with the best.
Since I'm a freelancer, of course the money is very important; apart from that, the main guide to taking a job is 'creative liberty'. Tell me what you need done, and let me handle it; if you're going to tell me how to do it, you can do it yourself.
Does spirituality contribute to your creativity?
My particular form of spirituality does contribute to my particular form of creativity; I'm not sure it would work for someone else. That's perfectly okay -- the matter of spirituality is one of the few things left in modern life about which we can be completely unique as individuals.
It is possible to fall in love with a bad idea simply because it is yours. How do you avoid this?
I avoid it by not doing it in the first place; I'm not sure I'm even wired that way. Everything is subject to change.
Declaration: With what person or business would you like to work?
This changes from time to time, but at the moment, I would be really enthusiastic about working with someone in Islamic Microfinance. I am not a Muslim, but I find this aspect of the culture very sensible, and one with promising applications.
Do you work well under pressure?
I do my best work under pressure. I actually wish this was not so, because it's very stressful, but if that's the way it's got to be, well, let's get it on.
What do you feel when, after two or three years, you see an idea of yours again?
I like when that happens. It's motivating.
You are as good as your last idea. Wouldn't you like to have a more secure type of work?
No. I did the whole secure, corporate thing for a long time and it burned me out. Even though it's sometimes stressful (and doesn't pay as well, usually), I'm much more comfortable being the master of my own fate.
What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
Apparently, my parents discovered I knew how to read when they heard me reading aloud from the printing on the cereal box as I was eating breakfast. I was four or five years old at the time. The first story I wrote - or illustrated, rather, since my teacher actually wrote what I dictated to her - was about traveling to the Moon and meeting some aliens; I was in first grade then.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I write non-fiction almost exclusively; academic and business research, political and cultural blogging, online journalism. I'm married to a romance novelist, but I don't have the time or the enthusiasm for fiction myself - except for one or two rather strange ideas that I keep meaning to get to "someday."
My serious, business-related writing can be found at my online business journal, GR Business Online:
My more creative, Mr. Hyde part of my personality is on display at my blog:
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
My creative process is very reflexive; something will spark an idea, and I'll immediately put fingers on keyboard. I don't have a "process" or a "routine". If I need to write, I write.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
I am an enormous consumer of news -- I browse between 75 and 100 different news links and blogs every day. When I encounter something that interests me, or more often than not, annoys me, I'll follow up with some additional research and usually generate my own article on the topic.
What well known writers do you admire most?
Fiction writers I'm a big fan of are Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Martin Cruz Smith, and most of the big names in science-fiction, since I'm a fan of the genre. Non-fiction writers I like are almost too numerous to mention, although particular favorites are Hunter S. Thompson, William Shirer, James McPherson, Bruce Catton, Sebastian Junger, and Carl Sagan. And probably others I will think of as soon as I'm done answering this question.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
I've been told I am, so I'll accept that assessment pending further input. I enjoy public speaking, so I suppose that helps.
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
Most of the time, I actually have a specific target audience; that's just the nature of my work. Otherwise, I write for whomever can draw knowledge or inspiration from it. I just toss it out there for the world to make what it will of it; I'm not sentimental about the whole "who do I write for" thing.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
Yes and no. The activity is therapeutic, but I don't exorcise my own demons through my writing.
Does reader feed-back help you?
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
I do sometimes, but there are no hard-and-fast rules I follow. If I have a feeling a particular piece really needs to have another set of eyes take a look at it, there are three or four people I trust to give me useful guidance.
Do you believe you have already found "your voice" or is that something one is always searching for?
People who spend time worrying about this are not spending enough time actually writing.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
Fortunately, most of what I do is according to some externally-imposed deadline, so self-discipline is very easy. When I don't have a particular deadline, I make it a point to write one good piece - whatever it is - every day.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
I insist on quiet - not easy in a household of six people - and I can't write on an empty stomach. I must have coffee. And cigarettes, although not at my desk; when I need to stop and think or compose the next few lines, I'll take a smoke break outside.
What has been your experience with publishers?
Publishers have a completely different perspective than writers, or more correctly, good writers. Good writers are writing with the goal of producing the best article, story, novel, etc. they can. Publishers are publishing with the goal of generating the most revenue. There's nothing wrong with this, but it is bad for the creative process, and keeps a lot of worthy writers from being rewarded for their work. That's because publishers' aims are best achieved with production from writers who are not doing it for creativity's sake, but to earn a buck. Sadly, that means total garbage - stuff like Dan Brown, Stephanie Meyer, Tom Clancy - ends up being the most popular.
So to answer the question directly, my experience with publishers has been difficult. Fortunately, it is not an experience I need to have too often.
What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
You are your own best judge, as long as you're being honest with yourself. If you believe something you've written in the past is worth trying to do something with now, then by all means give it a try. You may still be wrong, but even rejection is a valuable experience that makes you better in the long run. If you're not confident about something you've written, don't get hung up on it; forget about it and move on.
How does one develop the instinct to detect business opportunities?
The main thing is to gain experience, or at least some basic familiarity, with many different types of businesses and sectors. When you see a potential business opportunity, if you can rapidly sketch out - in your mind, without doing much research - the probable means of producing/obtaining the product or service, its market and application, and the revenue stream, chances are it will be an idea worth pursuing.
Clients do not always know what they want. How do you correctly interpret their comments and requests?
Ask a lot of questions, and constantly rephrase or restate their comments and requests back to them. Ambiguity is no help to anyone, so a big part of any project is helping the client understand exactly what they need.
Which decisions turn out better: the immediate, visceral ones, or the ones reached after mulling the matter over for a few days?
It depends on your experience and knowledge of the issue on the table; if you know enough, a fast decision can be just as good as one that takes some time. If you have a choice, though, in general it's better to take as much time as possible.
Do you have a handy saying or a relevant expression on the subject of money?
"Money is a medium of exchange, not a thing with an intrinsic value. Do not spend it on imaginary things, and especially not on other money."
Have you created relationships with other bloggers or readers of your blog?
Yes. That's the whole point of having a blog in the first place, is to develop real-world connections.
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to begin a blog?
If you're doing it because you want attention, you probably shouldn't bother. There are millions and millions of forgettable, self-absorbed blogs out there already. If you're doing it because you have something to say, or you want to use it as a connection to being able to build relationships and interactions in the real world, then by all means go for it.
A simple pleasure that for you is quite big or important.
Coffee with Ovaltine in it.
Something in which you are completely incompetent.
I don't think there's anything I'm COMPLETELY incompetent about, but I am a terrible golfer. Can't sing, either.
Does knowing someone's zodiac sign help you to better understand that person?
No. Astrology is bunk. Knowing someone helps me better understand that person, I don't give a damn what their "sign" is.
In your lifetime, what is the best news you have ever seen printed?
I think I'm still waiting for it. Although the Berlin Wall falling was pretty good.
To which other place in the world would you move without hesitation?
A word or expression that you detest.
"At the end of the day"
Which animal do you prefer for company?
I like cats.
If you were to return reincarnated, which real-life person would you like to be?
Myself again, only starting over from about age 15 so I could do a few things differently.
Did God create the world in seven days, or do you believe in the theory of evolution?
God is an invention of Man, in my opinion. But everyone should be free to believe what they want to believe without imposing it on others, or having others impose their beliefs on them.
To what percentage do you believe in statistics?
It depends on how rigorously they are produced. Good empirical work produces reliable statistics.
Do you believe it is true that humans only use 10% of their brain capacity?
I not only don't believe that, I have objective knowledge that it is not true.
What do you think of the squatter "movement"?
I have very little sympathy for squatters.
Do you think the catastrophism about climate change has been exaggerated?
Absolutely not. We are facing a grim future.
Do extraterrestrials exist?
Of course they do. Whether they've actually been to Earth or not is debatable. My feeling is probably not; the universe is a big place, and after thousands and thousands of years of civilization we've not even made it out of our own backyard, cosmically-speaking. I read a comment somewhere that aliens visiting Earth "would be like driving 1,000 miles to go to Taco Bell." I think that's probably true.
How do you define your political position? What is the ideology that inspires it?
My usual answer to this question is "pragmatic". I think of myself as a modern Federalist.
What matters more in deciding your vote: the party, the candidate, or the ideas?
The ideas. Which unfortunately are the least priority for candidates and parties, and most voters as well.
Do you think religion has a place in politics?
Should parties that want to eliminate democracy be allowed to participate in democratic elections?
No. That's how the Nazis came to power in Germany, and look how well that turned out.
Why does hunger continue to exist in the world? Is this the result of a deliberate policy?
Hunger continues to exist because people don't know how to keep their pants on, frankly.
Two-party systems are on the rise: is this good for politics?
Yes, provided there is a clear distinction in political philosophy and outlook between the two.
Does a state have the right to attack or intervene in another country that has not attacked said state, if the country has committed grave injustices or crimes against humanity?
That depends. I believe in the idea of the global community, but on the other hand, I think "intervention" is resorted to a bit too often and for the wrong reasons much of the time.
Do you believe in any of the conspiracy theories regarding 9-11?
No. People who do are immature and stupid.
Do you defend the ecotaxes?
I am critically concerned about the environment, but I find ecotaxes cynical and pointless.
Are you in favor of or against the death penalty?