In the short essay “Why I Quit Facebook” (Issue 2), Katie Hagen explores the “weirdness” of Facebook–its social loneliness, its alienating attention. In this interview, she discusses her editing process and the connection between music and writing.
A professional French horn player, Katie Hagen has performed with the Nashville Symphony and as a studio recording musician, touring internationally and performing at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, among others. Her essays have appeared in Art House America and The Tennessean. She delights in chatting boisterously in real time with her husband and two young daughters in Nashville, Tennessee.
What inspired you to create this piece? I had a love/hate relationship with Facebook for some time and strongly suspected that others do, too. Giving voice to this dichotomy allowed me to connect with like-minded people, which is strangely what social media claims to be able to provide. There are more of us doubters out there than one might think!
How would you characterize your creative process as you worked on this piece? My original essay was more than twice as long as the final version, so it was first an expansive process and later a paring down to a leaner and meaner piece. Less is almost always more.
What do you think makes less more? I think that less is more because more skill is involved in saying things succinctly. We live in an age of short attention spans. Brevity and clarity matter. I have always been attracted to poetry in large part because if it’s done well, much is said with very few words.
What writing or other artistic expression has had a profound impact on your writing? Why? I am a musician, so obviously playing an instrument or hearing a great piece of music inspires me. I also love Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I enjoy escaping to that time period and relish both writers’ unabashed American-ness.
What do you think the similarities are between being a writer and being a musician? The differences? Music and writing are similar in that they are capable of expressing wide ranges of universal human emotions. Also, the people who choose to pursue them often feel that their art forms chose them. We feel compelled to express ourselves above all else. The differences, for me anyway as an orchestral musician, have to do with the level of creativity involved, and the physicality and athleticism. As a musician, one is the composer’s vehicle. Musicians in an orchestra are expressing a composer’s ideas and emotions and, to a lesser degree, the conductor’s. Writing often involves more innate creativity. Then there is the simple amount of physical toll on one’s body when playing an instrument. It’s a bit like training for an athletic event being a musician. We must warm up and practice and regularly take stock of our physical fitness. With writing, as long as my fingers work and I have a comfortable place to sit, I’m good to go!
Where do you create? Tell us about your workspace. I have a small desk in my bedroom that is possibly the only space in our house that is mine and mine alone. I live with my husband, two children and a puppy, so almost all of them know that when my door is closed, only fire, blood or tears are good enough reasons to disturb me.
What do you do to help yourself get over a creative block? Fold a load of laundry, unload the
dishwasher, or go for a hike.
We asked Katie to dip into the “Proust Questionnaire” and select a few fun (less writing-related) questions to answer. This probing set of questions originated as a 19th-century parlor game popularized by contemporaries of Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that an individual’s answers reveal his or her true nature.
When and where were you happiest? Hiking through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado several summers ago and working up a huge appetite.
What is your greatest extravagance? Fish oil, freeze-dried mushroom supplements and acupuncture.
Who is your hero of fiction? Atticus Finch.
What is your current state of mind? Happily overextended.
What is your motto? “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” -Oscar Wilde
This interview was curated by Devon Halliday, Proximity‘s Interview Series Coordinator and a Comparative Literature student at Brown University.