Abigail Thomas

Brooke and Grant explore with Abigail Thomas her non-linear writing process, and why it’s important to her to throw away the rulebook when she writes. Abigail’s refreshing take on ageing and embracing the chaos will breathe life into any writer’s process, and, as Brooke notes, you have to first be able to write well in order to have the luxury to completely throw away the rulebook. In this conversation, Abigail encourages writers to just write—to follow the thread of what’s interesting. Her curiosity is catching, and will inspire readers to stay true to themselves and what brings them to the page in the first place.


Abigail Thomas is the author of six books, three works of fiction, Getting Over Tom, An Actual Life, and Herb’s Pajamas, and three memoirs. Her memoir, A Three Dog Life, was named one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post and won the 2006 Books for a Better Life Inspirational Memoir Award. Her other two memoirs are Safekeeping and What Comes Next and How to Like It. She is the mother of four children and grandmother of twelve, and she currently lives with her three dogs. Her academic education stopped when she was pregnant with her oldest daughter and was asked to leave Bryn Mawr during her first year. She started writing when she was forty-eight years old.

Writing Action: Look for and Listen to the Unexpected

Today’s writing action comes from Abby herself, who says that she always finds something unexpected when she looks and listens. Like many writers, she’s an acute observer—and this is something you can cultivate and do more of if you don’t already do it a lot. Next time you’re out, pay attention. Get into the habit of noting the unexpected. Take your journal with you next time you’re out and about. Use your smartphone to take photos of things that leap out at you as—simply that—unexpected. Practicing this will open up new possibilities in your writing because it’s a way to invite delight, and a sense of wonder, and curiosity into your day-to-day life—and that can only positively impact your writing, regardless of your genre.

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