Conversations with Writers: Sam Caton

Sam Caton is a poet, screenwriter, novelist, and actor from Fargo, ND. His screenplays have received awards in international festivals, and his most recent work is currently in production with the company he founded, Quiet Minds Productions.

Caton’s writing is an ongoing journey of learning about himself and how to be a part of this changing world.

He finds both peace and turmoil in writing, just as all passions and work, and believes that, just as stories in myth and fiction and history are the maps we have to follow as we work on growth and piecing together a future of peace, his own writing is a means to a similar end.

“So get started. Write. Go to bed. Wake up. And then get started again.”

When did you first express an interest in writing?

The first time I remember writing for pleasure was when I was six years old. I was a bit of a geek in my early years, and I had just finished a family road trip visiting historical sites, including several battlegrounds from the Civil War, such as Shiloh and Gettysburg. My Grandfather, Pap, was a huge influence in my life at that time and remains as one to this day, although he passed a few years back. It was his birthday, and, being the six-year-old geek I was, I thought a six page essay on the Civil War would be a great gift for him, so I wrote one for Pap. 

You write an array of genres—how do you go back and forth between screenplays and poetry?

It’s hard to say. I have a pretty wild imagination, which isn’t always a good thing, and whichever world I’m writing about at that time I get fully immersed. However, all my work, whether it be a black comedy screenplay, a psychological thriller, my novel (which is a western that entails the lore and mythology of Shakespeare’s Elizabethan Faeries), or my simple “non-fiction” poetry, all my writing is a direct result of how I view the world, how I view myself. What I mean is that I think I, in a way, write in just one genre, and that genre is Sam Caton, and sometimes I’m in good moods and sometimes I’m in foul moods, and sometimes I’m anxious, for in all writing, the basic humanity of the writer lies present within the breakdown of his or her own characteristics into the splintered caricatures of the characters being written.

Printed out versions of screenplays and books that Caton has written.

You are a founder (and writer) of Quiet Minds Productions—what is your mission for your company and where do find inspiration?

Quiet Minds Productions is a film production company focused on using fictional narratives in movies to bring to light the struggles that we all so often hide from others, such as addiction and mental illness. We, as artists, know that if we are going to tell stories, there must be purpose, and if we can bring about awareness and change in the stigmas of addiction and mental illness, then it’s our duty as artists to do so—to have a purpose with our imaginations. As the writer of our team, I find inspiration, as many writers often do, in the stories and struggles and hardships and suffering of people I know, have known, have met, whether it be for an hour or a lifetime, and, as always, from myself, for I, too, struggle with a difficult amount of mental illness.

Do you have a writing routine?

One of my favorite poets is William Blake, and one of his “Proverbs of Hell” from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is: “Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.” I tend to follow this to some degree. The morning is for poetry, the afternoon is for other projects, screenplays or novels, a big meal, and then bed. On top of that, and although it may be odd, I have written three full notebooks of poetry almost entirely at The Empire Tavern as a regular for a period of my life. Maybe not typical for 2020, but I feel if you time-traveled to a Greenwich pub in the sixties, you’d find quite a few people enjoying a whiskey as they write poetry.

Caton has two writing spaces; one in his apartment and one in his garage (pictured).

What advice do you have for writers?

I guess my advice to writers is to write. Just write. Write because you long to write. Write because it’s therapy, it’s hope, it’s activism. I know many people who want to write, or perhaps want to want to write, and I know how this is because I have had many dry spells as well. But, as with many things, one of the hardest things to do is get started. So get started. Write. Go to bed. Wake up. And then get started again.