My Writing Process Blog Tour
Thank you to Georgia Bellas (aka Mr. Bear Stumpy) for inviting me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. She is a gracious and talented writer who works her ass off for the literary community. I hope we’ll be able to have a long conversation in person one day about books and heartbreak, and this crazy, crazy life while sipping something strong out of mason jars. You can learn more about her writing, process, and podcast here.
What are you working on?
I’m working on a novel about self-taught artists. It started out as a short story, but I knew I wasn’t finished with this character or this strange offshoot of the non-academic art world and what happened when the two ends crashed into each other in the latter part of the twentieth century. I was spellbound by the subject and characters and even though I knew it would be difficult to write, I knew that sort of wonder doesn’t happen everyday so I stuck with it. It has grown into a novel that spans 1960 to the mid 90s. I’m two years and one hundred pages in, but I still have a long way to go. A lot of research is going into it. I’ve had to learn a whole new lexicon. I am determined to capture this world and the momentum it had in these years as best I can. When I freak out about how long it’s taking, I work on short pieces. I recently finished three flash stories and an essay. I’m also in the beginning stages of an essay on being married to a Nine Inch Nails super fan. I get to interview my husband for this one and I’m pretty excited about the idea of looking at our 18-year relationship from the lens of this band. I’m amazed by how much wonder I have about someone I’ve known and loved for so long.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not one to get bogged down in genre definitions. In fact, that sort of thing makes me twitchy. I’ve been told my prose tends toward the lyrical, but plenty of other writers do that in all the genres. I try to write the best story I can in a voice that could only be mine. I am and have been many things: a child in the 80s, the daughter of a single mom who was also principal of my elementary school, grand-daughter to an ailing grandmother, younger sister to a musician, daughter of an alcoholic in recovery, wife of a husband who travels much of the time, daughter-in-law, a person who struggles with major depression, anxiety disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder, with a strong tendency to self-destruct, but who can be madly in love with animals, nature, art, and art-makers at the same time. There aren’t any untold stories, but no one’s perception or experience is exactly the same as your own. I write toward that.
Why do you write what you do?
I write what I’m curious about. I write to learn, to discover, to play with ideas and language. One of my favorite parts of my writing process is research. I love how I can wake up one morning and have no idea that I’ll be looking up what a certain motor on a certain small boat sounds like, staring at Joseph Cornell’s work in The Guggenheim’s collection, or you know, watching videos of Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. Research takes me to strange places I never expect and to stories I wouldn’t have written without it. It is the best way for me to create living, breathing, whole characters. I am never bored. I also write because it’s how I process the world. I’m not great in social settings, particularly if there are more than a few people, but in writing, I have learned to be more vulnerable. I feel freer in prose than I do out in the world.
How does your writing process work?
A lot depends on my depression. I can’t deny it affects my whole life. When I’m working at my best, I have a strict routine. I read in the early mornings, I walk my border collie for 45 minutes, and the afternoons are for writing. I try to put in 4-5 hours a day doing writing work. Some days it’s only editing, some days it’s new material, and on days when my brain is too tired or heavy, I submit, research, or read more. I try to finish at least one draft of everything I start. A shitty draft is still better than nothing. I am not one of those people that can write every day though. I need to step away when I get frustrated or stuck on a project. This is when I cook or clean or garden. I’ve worked out some major issues in my work while chopping vegetables or vacuuming. One time I painted two rooms in my house before I had a story figured out. I also truly believe in giving a piece time to itself so it can think about what it’s done before I go back to it for revisions. I am finally learning to trust my process and not get freaked out if I don’t write something new immediately after finishing something else. I’m learning to be patient. Sort of. Sometimes, however, my process includes bouts of frustrated napping.
Thanks for reading my thoughts on process! I’ve asked three insanely talented and generous writers to join the conversation next week: Matt Hart, Ray Shea, and James Yates. You can find them on twitter @forkliftmatt666, @raynola, and @chicagoexpatjy. Individual bios and links to their websites are below. Look for their posts on the Writing Process Blog Tour on Thurs., August 21.
Matt Hart is co-founder and the editor-in-chief of Forklift, Ohio. He is the author of five books of poems, Who’s Who Vivid (Slope Editions, 2006), Wolf Face (H_NGM_N Books, 2010), Light-Headed (BlazeVOX, 2011), Sermons and Lectures Both Blank and Relentless (Typecast Publishing, 2012), and Debacle Debacle (H_NGM_N Books, 2013), as well as several chapbooks. Additionally, his poems, reviews, and essays have appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Big Bell, Cincinnati Review, Coldfront, Columbia Poetry Review, H_NGM_N, Harvard Review, jubilat, Lungfull!, and Post Road, among others. His awards include a Pushcart Prize, a 2013 individual artist grant from The Shifting Foundation, and fellowships from both the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. He lives in Cincinnati where he teaches at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and plays in the band TRAVEL. You can find his post on the Writing Process Blog Tour here.
Ray Shea’s writing has appeared in Phoebe, The Rumpus, Hobart, apt, Sundog Lit, Fourteen Hills and elsewhere. His essay “Forensic Biography and the Art of the Screenwriter” was recently a finalist for the Phoebe 2014 Creative Nonfiction Award judged by Cheryl Strayed. He is currently at work on a memoir about fatherhood, violence, addiction, and memory, and writes poetry in his spare time. A native of Boston and New Orleans, he lives in Austin. You can find his post on the Writing Process Blog Tour here.
James Yates is an MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University in Chicago and serves as a fiction editor for Longform.org. His fiction has appeared in Hobart, CHEAP POP, and Pithead Chapel; his nonfiction has appeared in The Fanzine, Necessary Fiction, and The Chicago Reader. He lives in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. You can find his post on the Writing Process Blog Tour here.