5 Question Interview Series with Joe Perez

In the blog world few writers evolve into more than just blogging. Perez is one of them; his self-reflective writing has captivated my daily reading for the last couple of years. Joe Perez is the author of the blogs Until, GS&C, and Whole Writing. His fourth coming book, Soulfully Gay, will be published by Shambhala/Integral books this May. Joe has graciously agreed to be part of my 5 question interview series.

If readers are to come away from Soulfully Gay with something, what would you want it to be?

Soulfully Gay is a story about my life over 14 months. I spend lots of time telling you the story and very little effort at trying to say, "this is what it all means." So it's not a conventional memoir. If readers come away from the book with anything, I hope they will try to make sense of the book for themselves. I hope they will wrestle with its questions and work through its puzzles. I hope the gestalt, the whole story with its twists and turns and surprises, sticks with them in an enduring way.

How did writing a book that you knew would be read so closely by your blog audience compare with writing the blog?

Well, actually when I was writing the book I didn't know I was writing a book. I was writing a blog, a column, and keeping a journal. Much of Soulfully Gay actually was blogged, my first blog, The Soulful Blogger, which I kept over 14 months. The book is the combination of blog, journal, columns, and memoir (plus help from the editors in
making everything flow together). The book reads in a very blog-like fashion that will be very familiar and comfortable for any of my blog readers. What makes the book different, really, is that it tells a story (like a novel or a screenplay). A story that even to this day
I've never told publicly outside of the book.

Can you expand/explain about your Whole Writing blog and art of whole writing?

I'm dribbling out the Whole Writing method on the blog, so I don't have anything really sophisticated to offer at this time. What I'm doing is focusing on the practice of writing and sharing everything I know about how to fine-tune this ordinary practice into a supercharged method for expanding one's awareness and changing one's life. There are many good ways to write, just as there are many ways to spend an hour in a gym. Just sheer repetition in doing something will eventually pay off with results. My goal is to present Whole Writing the way a good personal trainer presents the best, most effective techniques of a full-body workout. I'm asking: how can we get the most out of writing to aid our self-awareness and meditative consciousness? My answer is, it starts with what's worked for me and what I've found in my research so far. I've incorporated the best stuff from other writing methods and added insights from Integral Theory. Eventually I'll get to the point where I can explain it fairly simply, but maybe like meditation or working out it will take more than just a good explanation. I think it might be easier to sit down with someone, write together, and show them how the technique works than to blog
this stuff.

Your life seems to be a journey that is totally expressed by blogging: Do we know the real you or do you keep a private life that is not told to your readers?

That's a tough one. Many bloggers self-consciously adopt a persona and they blog from that space. This helps keep us sane because unless we can always write about stuff that nobody disagrees with there are a lot of sharp words flying around. I haven't done that consciously, so I think I'm writing the "real me." But I definitely do keep parts of my life behind the curtain. Some parts of my life that I kept behind the curtain a few years ago (like my struggles with HIV disease) I'm feeling increasingly comfortable writing about in front of the curtain. But it's work and it takes time to get more and more transparent (and to know when to pull up a curtain).

As a reader of blogs, it's always a good idea to remember that the other bloggers are just as flawed as you are. Just because someone writes 500 words about "10 healthy foods that I really like," doesn't mean that they don't pig out on pizza, carry 20 pounds of excess weight, or struggle with a food addiction, etc. Often people write about the areas of life that most trouble and perplex them. That's true for me at times, I'm sure.

What inspires you? How do you stay motivated?

I'm a classic Virgo in this respect, so I don't need much to inspire me. Having work I love, faith, and trying to be a better man is enough. Not very sexy, I know. The idea of becoming more "spiritually evolved" doesn't do anything for me; in fact, I'm rather averse to trying to change myself fundamentally. I'd rather just be open to experience, wherever it takes me.

As a writer, I'm also motivated by recognition and the desire to make an impact. No writer is motivated by the thought that some day 37 people will read his book. All things being equal, I hope lots of people eventually read Soulfully Gay. I do fret sometimes that the world of the chattering classes and the respectable literary magazines will completely ignore my book or, worse, totally misunderstand and misread it. I'm prepared for those possibilities, really. Expecting it, even. But it's fuel for the soul when people I respect and admire do get something valuable in my writing and it makes a difference to them.