You know that thing that’s going around the Internet? You know which one I’m talking about. No, not the one about the cat in the shark costume on the Roomba, that’s old news. I’m talking about the one where writers ask other writers about their writing process? Well, a friend of mine, Tyler Yoder, tapped me for this exercise, oh, a few weeks back, and I said, “sure, I think I can squeeze it in.” Only, I was lying about that. I didn’t realize how busy I was until I stopped having time for writing and my whole life became about three things:

  1. Selling our house/buying a new house
  2. Finding paid work
  3. Trying not to have a nervous breakdown

But I decided to do it right now, because I need to evaluate my writing process so I can fix what’s broken. Then I can be a mean-writing machine. I don’t think anybody’s going to read this, probably, but I have a spare half-hour before I need to attend to my next obligation, so here it goes…

1. What are you working on?

I am currently working on several projects at once, some more than others. Obviously, this blog gets most of my attention because it is like a relationship; if I don’t maintain it, it will die. This blog has been a fantastic way for me to prioritize writing in my life so that I can gain the practice I need to become a self-supporting writer. That has been my secret pipe dream since childhood, to become a novelist, so since my grown-up, responsible career went up in flames, may as well chase that pipe dream, right?

Don’t laugh. I realize how silly it sounds.

Anyway, to that end, I am working on a memoir of my very strange, surreal time in rehab, as well as a novel about a young woman whose life drastically changes during the financial crisis. I have 20,016 words of the memoir so far, and far less of the novel. I also have a handful of what-if drafts of fiction on the back-back burner, as just because I’m working on one project doesn’t mean I don’t get ideas for others. I jot down notes for the ideas, and save them for later.

I also have professional work, both paid and unpaid for causes I believe in and just for fun. I’m a contributing editor at yeah write, I contribute monthly for Have Heart Magazine, I write sassy feminist and political/pop culture stuff for Lefty Pop, and I participate in Cinapse‘s weekly Two Cents column writing micro film reviews.

At the moment, I am also putting together some short stories to send out to literary magazines. Why the hell not, right?

Finally, I write poetry as often as I can, because it’s good for the soul.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I don’t think of myself as writing in a genre. Maybe literary fiction or memoir (a genre I’d never expected to try)? All I know is that when I write, I aim for intelligence, wit, authenticity and beauty, with dry humor if the subject calls for it. Also, I put myself in my writing, tell my stories. No one else can do that – be me, I mean. In that way, my work is different from anyone else’s.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I write about what’s going on in my life or what has gone on in my life for several reasons.

  • One, so that I can tell the truth about myself, because as Virginia Woolf says, “If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” 
  • Two, because it opens up avenues to deeper relationships with others around me. I’m reserved in person, so being vulnerable here helps me to be vulnerable in real life. 
  • Three, I write about my life because I always thought I had nothing interesting to say until I said something. 

I was always the person who ignored who I was and tried to be someone I liked better. By writing, I am learning to appreciate my experience of life, this gift I so often take for granted. I soak up my experiences, savoring them in ways I don’t when I don’t put them on paper.

VirginiaWoolf

4. How does my writing process work?

My process is like any other writer’s, I guess. I aim to journal every day, at least one page. This empties my mind of the crap over which I fruitlessly obsess. Though I left off this process while I was at the height of my freelancing career, I’ve recently picked it back up again because damn, I need it, otherwise I’m going to keep going 100 rounds of “maybe I should enroll in medical school instead” in my head.

I like to work in specific places depending on my mood, but my favorite places are in my office, on my back porch, and at my favorite locally-owned coffee shops. I need mild levels of stimulation: the soft hum of clinking cups, beautiful photos, flowers, the smell of wood. It helps me concentrate.

Unfortunately, if the writing is going badly, I procrastinate by hitting up my favorite websites and reading pithy articles on feminism, books and a variety of contemporary theories, but I’m trying not to do this anymore and just get to work already.

My chief sin in writing is that I write for others first, neglecting projects like my short stories, novel or memoir in favor of more pressing demands. It’s almost as if I’m afraid of myself. Afraid of doing what I know I’m meant to do because if I fail, who am I?

I’m aiming to live more like this:

“You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.”

— Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

– – –

I’m supposed to tag someone to go next, but I don’t want to press anyone into something. Also, I’m at my vulnerability limit for the decade, so I’m not in the emotional place to ask anyone at the moment. HOWEVER, if you would like to share about your writing process, feel free to take on the torch and let me know! I’d love to read about it.


Comments

My Writing Process: Finding a Room of My Own — 34 Comments

  1. I could not be BOTHERED with journalling every day. I think I expend all of my ‘this is at the front of my headspace’ crapola on my friends, and then clear my mind to write.

    I’m impressed that you write in coffee shops. I think I’d be too fascinated or intimidated by the people to actually WRITE. Also there’s the aspect of bothering my ass to go there in the first place.

    I liked learning about your process.
    Considerer recently posted…GOODBYE BLOGGER/HELLO WORDPRESSMy Profile

  2. When you say you journal every day is that in an actual journal, a physical book, or some kind of electronic file? I have a physical journal that I love so much I can’t bring myself to write in it!
    Ellen recently posted…She Bangs the DrumsMy Profile

  3. “It’s almost as if I’m afraid of myself. Afraid of doing what I know I’m meant to do because if I fail, who am I?” This statement punched me in the gut. It’s exactly how I feel to the point that I’ve found reasons to procrastinate. I have a career that when up in flames, student loans I’ll be paying on until a die for said career so now what? I say, chase the pipe dream! Loved reading your process.
    Deanna Herrmann recently posted…The Serpent of PainMy Profile

  4. Thanks for sharing your process with us! I love the idea of writing in a journal every day, but the thought of adding one more thing makes me cringe, even though I know it would help my process so much. I did not know you were working on a memoir, that’s so exciting! (Or did I and I forgot. Please forgive me if we’ve already talked about this.)
    Michelle Longo recently posted…Why I Won’t Cut The (Monitor) Cord.My Profile

  5. Thanks so much for sharing this. I may take you up on this challenge. It is funny what we deny in ourselves — thinking about your statement that you write for others first. If you believe you are supposed to write, and I do believe that is the case for you, it’s important to honor it. I have trouble calling myself a “writer,” even though that is how I have made my living for 30+ years. Crazy what we tell ourselves!
    Meg recently posted…Scout Picture of the WeekMy Profile

    • You should! I want to read it if you do. And I know I need to honor it – it’s why I started in the first place. I just need to stop all the subconscious trickery that goes on in my head.

  6. I have loved reading these posts about how other writers write. I can relate to being afraid of one’s self. Are you familiar with that quote from Marianne Williamson? Here, I’ve copied and pasted it for you. I just love it. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
    Pam recently posted…An update: pregnancy, the home birth book and definitely not feeling blessedMy Profile

  7. I can’t wait to read that rehab memoir!

    Journaling every day is so helpful. Have you ever done the exercises in The Artist’s Way? Some of them are kind of hokey, but The Morning Pages exercise is really helpful and amazing for keeping the creative juices flowing.
    Karen recently posted…That Poem Is Nice, But . . .My Profile

  8. For what it’s worth, I very much identified with your meditations on writing. The guilt cycle of not writing -> shaming yourself for not writing -> letting that shame convince you that it’s not what you love doing otherwise you’d be doing it more -> not writing.

    In fact, I think I’ll pull up my essay on this cycle for next weekend’s moonshine.
    Nate recently posted…First PartyMy Profile

  9. I identify with so much of this, it’s scary. Maybe it’s just called the Writer’s Woe. I am struggling to re-learn, re-teach myself and get back in touch with the writer I was 10 years ago before I try to improve and it’s a struggle. I shame and berate myself for any inkling of what might be perceived as a lack of dedication, for allowing life to get in the way of something I loved and used to be good at.

    Writer’s Woe, man. That’s the name I’m giving it.
    April C. recently posted…The “M” word & conversations with God.My Profile

  10. I have found that telling the truth is liberating. Sometimes it takes a while to figure that out.

    I’m lucky… I don’t have to write… I just like to. Lots of ideas, not so much time.

    Good luck finding your room, Kitty.
    tedstrutz recently posted…TORMENTED… A VignetteMy Profile

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