This Writing Life

One of my favorite things is a peek behind the curtain, if you will, at other writers’ writing life and process. Writing is such a solitary practice, and it is fascinating to me how we all approach and try to tame such an unwieldy and unpredictable process. I was tapped by Dina Relles of the blog Commonplace to share mine. I was a bit apprehensive, as I don’t have much of a process these days, but Dina’s wonderful and real answers about her writing life inspired me. Read Dina’s answers here.

WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

I write short stories. I am currently revising a piece that I kind of hate, but am determined to see it through. Some days I am convinced I am not a short story writer at all, but I do believe that all writing is practice and will hopefully lead me to where I need to be. I have never submitted any of my stories- based on both fear of rejection, but also a sense that they are not done yet, or at least not anything I want published. My goal for this year is to get over that. I had this belief that I would “know” when a story was ready. I thought that when I felt joy or happiness or pride upon reading my completed story, that’s when I would “know”. I am starting to think that I will never “love” any of my stories, and it seems other writers feel the same.

I also inconsistently post on this blog. I do not have a certain schedule or process- ideally I will post once a week. I “retired” from my job in April and this summer has been all about transitioning into being the caretaker parent, full-time. It has been a much more all-encompassing experience than I anticipated. I am shocked at the little amount of free time I have, even with school and baby-sitters. But more than that, I tend to shy away from writing here. I am in awe of those blogs that have such style and voice, that are so authentic. I feel like a fraud here. I constantly feel that I should just step away (who would notice?) and concentrate on creative writing. But I find I can’t. There is something so compelling and rewarding about blogging- and even more so, the blogging community. I just can’t quit. 🙂 So I need to step up and commit to writing here more often.

HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN ITS GENRE?

I am not even sure what my work is, so that is hard to answer. What I envision for this blog is less parenting tales, less essays on how to do things- I don’t have any certain expertise- and more a place to tell stories. I am not sure I am there yet, but that is what I love. And I’m not sure that this blog is any different from any others in the mama/writer category. I hope to just add to the conversation, to be another voice out there in the wilderness, another person listening and saying “yes, me too”.

As for creative writing- this is where I am stuck in the process. I am slowly but surely finding my “voice”- it  is so difficult to strip away all of the influences and what I feel like I should write, and just let my stories speak. When I get there, then maybe I can answer this question.

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

Well. Isn’t that the big question? Why do we do what we do? For me, writing is first and foremost a primeveal urge. On a basic level, I just feel this need to do it. It is almost physical- as if the words and thoughts and questions have weight and they begin to swirl and gather mass if I ignore them. The only way to “release” the weight is to write. As for what I write and think about- for me, it is twofold. First, it is a basic attempt to freeze moments in my life. There are so many moments that slip away, that I forget about if I do not write about them. The other day I found a letter to my daughter when she turned one- I never published it, and even though it was only a year ago, I was startled by the details of her, details I had already forgotten. It was like a fossil- a beautiful snapshot of time. And when I read it, it was like I unlocked time, for just a moment.

Secondly,  I write- like most- to discover, to question, to provoke. To make myself actually slow down and think about the world, my world, my role in it. I love this poem by Billy Collins called Grand Central:

The city orbits around eight million
centers of the universe
and turns around the golden clock
at the still point of this place.
Lift up your eyes from the moving hive
and you will see time circling
under a vault of stars and know
just when and where you are.”

For me, writing is a way to stand still and recognize time, a way to find out just when and where I am.

HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

Short stories- It works best for me if I finish a complete draft in one sitting. Not a good draft, but just take the idea and let it go. No editing. Letting it veer off into bad and cliched places. I am not a type A person, but I love editing. One of the best things about being a (former) lawyer, I suppose, is that I get a thrill out of taking my red pen and slashing and rewriting. Rewriting is where my good writing happens, but I have to let that initial surge burn itself out. I have a ton of stories I’ve started and didn’t get to finish, and they just linger. I lose that writing rush that I need to get the story to take shape. I edit a lot. I’m still editing every story I’ve ever written.

For the blog- I get an idea, and then I try to find time to write it here. I don’t do a lot of planning and research, and I honestly don’t have much time to edit (which is probably obvious). I try to take the pressure off myself when I write here, and just throw thoughts and ideas and feelings down and hope they resonate in some way.

I don’t have a set time to write, I just try to squeeze it in around the edges of my life.

NEXT UP:

Almost everyone I can think of has already participated, so I’ll throw this open to anyone out there that wants to participate. Leave a comment, and I’ll visit your blog and tag you! Or just participate and let me know so I can read your thoughts.

Keep on keeping on,

xo A.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “This Writing Life

  1. I love this blog tour and your answers too. I didn’t know that Billy Collins poem and it took my breath away. Yes. Yes, yes, and yes. I agree with you on how writing is a way to stand still. oxo

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  2. “For me, writing is a way to stand still and recognize time, a way to find out just when and where I am.” That is just so perfect. Thank you for putting that thought into words–and for sharing the Billy Collins poem. Hauntingly gorgeous. Not surprisingly, so much of this resonated–this in particular: “It is almost physical- as if the words and thoughts and questions have weight and they begin to swirl and gather mass if I ignore them.” Yes…it is an almost physical urge, isn’t it? Which is why, despite how “maddening and elusive” (your words on my blog) it may be, we share a commitment to keep at it. (I also love that we former lawyers get our kicks editing.) And I admire you so much for tackling creative writing–I don’t have the courage!

    I loved this window into your writing world…thank you for being willing to participate & share your answers here. I always look forward to your words. xoxo

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  3. I seriously loved that line about working on a story you kind of hate. That happens to be A LOT with short stories I’m writing. I tend to write them with one lip curled up in self disgust.

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  4. Happy to have found you by way of A Design So Vast. I really enjoyed this post and felt like you articulated many of my whys and hows of writing, too
    Thank you.

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