Illustration by Fabio Vermelho

Bart Schaneman is an author who lives and writes in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. He has published numerous stories, essays and poems and is most recently the author of a collection of essays Someplace Else: On Wanderlust, Expatriate Life, & the Call of the Wild. For anyone who travels or has travelled or has even just left home at some point or other, you must pick up this collection of essays for its beauty and truth and wisdom. You can pick up a copy here.

1. Do you actively do anything to keep your brain healthy, and if so what?

I wish I was better at this. I mean, I read, write, and do plenty of other extracurriculars that keep my brain limber, but not necessarily healthy.

2. What or who mentally stimulates your growth the most?

Reading and music. Great songwriters probably do the most to challenge my thinking and show me different ways to see and feel about the world.

Frontal Lobe.

3. In what situations have you learned the most about yourself?

Traveling with another person in relatively tough situations — little sleep, uncomfortable environs, stressful circumstances — has been a good way to learn the difference between becoming mean or knowing that you just need sleep, or food, and to wait until your circumstances improve.

4. Do you think you have to learn good judgement? (Are people inherently self destructive?)

I don’t believe that we change that much, or improve, with age. I think we just become more careful.

5. If you could live inside of a book, which one would it be?

I love the Lost Generation; I always will. I want to go to the parties at Gatsby’s house.

6. Are there particular books you find yourself buying for or lending to people close to you?

I’ve given away more copies of Adam Gnade’s books than anyone else’s.

7. Is it more important for you to speak or to be heard?

It’s more important to listen.

8. Do you think a time exists that is easiest to create? For instance, do you strike the muse or does the muse strike you?

I don’t believe in muses. My wife inspires me to be a better person, but I still have to close the door sometimes.

9. Do you have an emotional state that you find it easier to create in?

I’ve given up on waiting until I am in the perfect state. I just need a quiet room that I can concentrate in.

10. Are there certain elements that you employ to set up the perfect mental space for creating? For example: Music/Food/Smells/Locations

Quiet is best.

11. Do you think you have to have an elevated ego to be an artist?  

Maybe ego drives some people. I just to remember the world as it was when I was in a certain way, and age. My motivation is preservation, and the desire to create something beautiful.

Parietal Lobe.

12. What smells do you most associate with your childhood?

Crayon boxes. New comic books. Manure. Summer corn fields early in the day. Play-doh. Engine oil. Dirt. Gasoline when we cleaned out paint brushes. Lamb’s wool. Clove cigarettes. Cheap vodka.

13. If you could only live on five ingredients for the rest of the life, what would they be?

Cold-brewed coffee. Good cheese. Good beer. Mangos. Dark chocolate.

14. Do you have spiritual needs and if so how do you nourish them?

The closest I get to spiritual is art and nature. So going to a museum, or a concert, or getting lost in the woods is all I need.

15. Do you have a place you go to, either physically or mentally, where you feel the most at peace?

Outside, somewhere away from people, that is quiet and beautiful.

16. Do you think that people need some form of discomfort to make art?

They need time away from the confines and demands of their lives.

17. What is your least favourite physical sensation?

I get vasovagal syncope, particularly when I’m stuck with needles. My brain shuts down at the sight of my own blood. It’s uncontrollable, and it feels like I’m having a stroke.

18. What is your favourite physical sensation?

My second favorite physical sensation is swimming in the ocean at night.

Temporal Lobe.

19. Do you connect more to the lyrics or music in songs (assuming a song has both!)?

Lyrics. 100 percent. I love rhythms and melodies and everything that delivers the lyrics to me, but nothing moves me like words. My favorite songwriter is Jason Isbell, and I was lucky enough to see him at Red Rocks in September. Hearing him in that most perfect of all venues was as good as listening to music gets.

20. If you got alzheimers or dementia what memory or memories would you be saddest to lose – or – which ones would cause the biggest loss of your personal identity?

I would be saddest to forget the names of the people I love.

21. Do you expect happiness in your life?

No, but I’ll take it when it comes.

22. Do you try and avoid feeling negative emotions or do you feel it is more constructive to experience your emotions fully?

I’ve gotten better at not letting my destructive emotions dictate my actions.

Occipital Lobe.

23. What’s the most unbelievable thing you’ve ever seen?

I was on a boat on Tonle Sap in Cambodia when a breast-feeding woman pulled up next to me and held up a five-foot long dead snake. After I took her picture two more kids popped up and made the universal money motion of rubbing their fingers together. They were the most clever beggars I’ve ever seen. I’ll show you the picture some time.

24. Have you ever seen something which you feel has directly resulted in certain elements of your personality today?

Tin shack neighborhoods for miles in Mongolia. Bridges opening over the Neva River during white night in St. Petersburg, Russia. The sun setting in Bali, turning the water the color of the sky. Western Montana in summer.

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