Interviews / Journalists

Interview with John Paul Brammer: “It’s definitely all based on vibes.”

John Paul Brammer is a journalist, writer, and illustrator from rural Oklahoma. With a passion for writing and making art, he began his career in journalism writing for The Guardian, NBC News, and Teen Vogue.

He then moved to Condé Nast, where he wrote and ran his popular LGBTQ and Latino advice column, ¡Hola Papi! He later worked with the Trevor Project to consult on their editorial content. He currently self-publishes his column on Substack and had a memoir of the same name published by Simon & Schuster’s flagship imprint in June 2021.

In addition to his column, John Paul’s writing and illustrations have appeared in outlets such as The Washington Post, Guernica, Catapult, and many more. He is also currently working with Netflix on The Most, a team that creates content, consults on projects, and builds community based on the company’s LGBTQ material.

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Hi John Paul, great to have you on Famous Writing Routines. We’re really excited to talk to you about your writing routine and process. For those who may not know, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Sure thing! My name is John Paul Brammer and I’m from Cache, Oklahoma, a rural area. I currently live in Brooklyn, and I run the column ¡Hola Papi! that started out as a Grindr advice column. I’ve since written and published a book of the same name in 2021, and I’m working on a TV show based on the book with Funny Or Die.

I’m an artist with a print shop and doing illustrations for magazines like Audubon Society and Oklahoma Today. I’m Mexican American, and left-handed despite the best efforts of Sister Herman Mary at St. Mary’s Catholic elementary school. 

Can you take us through the creative process behind your book, Hola Papi

It was almost a non-process for me, as I was working many gig jobs on the side. ¡Hola Papi! was made in the coffee breaks between my other tasks. I had two different office jobs during the time I was writing it. It was really stressful! But I came to think of working on the book as the more creative, fulfilling part of my day.

It was a little escape for me, even though it was still technically working. I didn’t even consider it would one day be finished. I just opened my laptop in whatever coffee shop I happened to land in and tinkered with it until, before I knew it, it was ready to hand over to my editor.

What does a typical writing day look like for you? 

Well, today, for example, I’m back in Oklahoma at my favorite coffee shop in Oklahoma City, Elemental. I basically wake up, head to a coffee shop, order a cold brew, open my laptop and do my best. I work on whatever hanging projects I have, inch myself closer to completing them, or I open a new Google doc and write whatever comes to mind.

Sometimes these new docs germinate into something worthwhile, and other times they sit in the graveyard. I’ll then do some sort of exercise, get more coffee, and work on whatever is most urgent until I can feel good about stopping for the day.

Usually, I’ll have some sort of meeting or two, especially nowadays while working on the TV show. My process relies heavily on caffeine and my mood, something I only have the luxury of saying because the first book ended up doing well. I consider myself super lucky. 

Do you have a target word count that you like to hit each day? 

I don’t have a word count to hit. It’s definitely all based on vibes. 

How did the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns affect your routine? 

It completely rearranged it. I wasn’t even a big office person pre-pandemic. But the coffee shop is a very important place to me. I need them, to the extent that I couldn’t quite rewire my brain to write from home for a long, long time.

Home is full of too many ghosts and private thoughts that I’m embarrassed to write in the presence of. In the beginning, I tried to trick myself. I got those big jugs of cold brew and made myself my own little coffee shop at home. I tried a YouTube video that simulated the din of a coffee shop, the muted chatter and the espresso machine and the clinking of glasses. It didn’t work. I really struggle to suspend my disbelief on all occasions.

So it was just a matter of shouldering through, doing my best despite my ruined routine, until a completely new one emerged. I can now write from home pretty well, but nothing beats being in a new city and perching myself in a coffee shop with nice, big tables and writing whatever comes to mind. That’s my happy place. But my desk functions now too.

Before you go…

Each week, we spend hours upon hours researching and writing about famous authors and their daily writing routines. It’s a lot of work, but we do it out of our love for books and learning about these authors’ creative process, and we certainly don’t expect anything in return. However, if you’re enjoying these profiles each week, and would like to send something our way, feel free to buy us a coffee!

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