April 7, 2014 § 26 Comments
You can talk about writing all day, you can think about the book you want to write, imagine what the finished product will feel like in you hands, but until you actually sit down day after day and bleed the thing out of you, you’ll never see a word. – Claire Bidwell Smith
I was extremely honored and also surprised when my dear friend Lindsey asked me to be part of a blog tour about the writing process. Honored because I love Lindsey’s work and respect her discipline to her craft, both in the precision of her writing and the frequency with which she posts on her blog. I was surprised because I don’t write very often and am not really the go-to person to talk about writing process. At first, I wasn’t sure if I could write about something that doesn’t exist, but the inquiry itself was extremely helpful and provided some much needed motivation.
1) What am I working on?
So this is a really humbling question because I am not working on anything other than mustering the courage to get to my laptop and actually write. There is a great deal of debris in the path – because that is the nature of the path – but mostly I am battling the loud voice booming who do you think you are. (Note: I actually just realized this now, as I wrote it down, so thank you Lindsey for inviting me to answer these daunting questions.)
What I would like to be working on are more blog posts. An idea for a novel simmers always in my mind, but because I am not writing down what the characters do or say on a daily basis, I am not sure that counts. Another goal I have is to write more about my experience as a mother and yoga teacher and military wife. Because these puzzle pieces often feel at odds with each other, I resist writing them down. Often, I resist the stillness needed to sit and write as well as the honest inquiry that’s a necessary part of the process. However, the more people I meet, the more I realize that most of us don’t quite fit together at the seams and that the large pieces that are marriage and motherhood and children and careers and relationships often have complex edges to them.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Again, humbling question. I am not sure my writing does differ from those in my genre, if those in my genre are women striving to appreciate both the dark and glittering moments of our days, to make meaning out of the mundane tasks of being an adult, and to find our place in a world that is wildly different from our expectations and maybe, exactly the way our parents warned us it would be. I definitely have more grammatical errors than most, that is for sure.
On another note, I write about military life from a slightly different vantage point, as I am much older than the typical military wife and I married my husband despite the fact that I used to believe that most people in the military were violent, right-wing, rednecks. Mostly what I write about is how this wildly absurd and ancient belief of mine is proved wrong on a daily basis. I also write about teaching and practicing yoga on a military installation in the South, and while I have tried, I haven’t found a ton of people who write about this.
3) Why do I write what I do?
When I DO write, I write about teaching yoga and living on a military base mostly because I am lonely or I want to make sense of something. And I am trying to make meaning about this unexpected life of mine. And, there are so many staggering bits of wonder and joy and tenderness observed every day that I want to preserve them somehow. The only way I can get past the who do you think you are demon is to remind myself that my greatest responsibility in this lifetime is not to squander it. Deepak Chopra said that our gifts to the world are usually found in our deepest desires. So I am trying to be faithful to this message that we need to follow our hearts, not just so we will find happiness, but because it is the sole reason we are here on the planet.
4) How does your writing process work?
Okay. This question is just funny. (sigh). My writing process begins with me thinking of something to write about on a run or during a yoga practice or on my mediation cushion. Then, about 2 weeks pass in which I do absolutely nothing and feel lousy about it. Next, I blow the dust away from the keyboard and try to remember my wordpress user name and password. Finally, I spend an evening staying up too late, and writing. Usually the next day, I erase everything and try again. The process continues from anywhere between three to seven days, at which point I give up and hit “publish.” It’s almost a given that I can’t sleep that night as I wonder why I discussed something so dull and really, I actually wrote that and made it available to strangers? Or even worse, to people who know me?
Writing is hard. And if you are even a tiny bit as neurotic as I am, the process will bring you to your knees.
I am so grateful to be a part of this blog tour as – because it always happens this way – I often don’t know what I know until I write it down. Please check back – as I did – to learn about the writing process of successful writers. I took notes!
Next week, the tour continues with Dana Talusani and Betsy Morro, two incredibly gifted writers and friends.
Elizabeth Marro was a journalist and freelance writer before she deserted the field to make money marketing and selling drugs. (The legal kind.) Since 2002, she has been weaning herself from the pharmaceutical industry and returning to her writing roots. Betsy and I used to be in a writing group together in San Diego, and I am eagerly awaiting the publication of her first novel, Casualties, the manuscript of which, I was luckily enough to read and be captivated by. Her freelance work can be found at LiteraryMama.com , San Diego Reader, Peninsula Beacon, Downtown News, among others.
Dana Talusani writes at the popular blog, The Kitchen Witch. She is a former teacher, writer and personal chef and now lives and writes in Colorado, where she lives with her husband and two girls. Recently, she was chosen to be part of the Boulder – Listen to Your Mother performance. I look forward to meeting Dana this summer, and for now, I have to settle for her heartbreaking and hilarious blog and her text messages, which remind me I am not as alone as I think I am.
I am so grateful to read your answers which are thoughtful and wise, as is everything you write. I adore every single word you “bleed out of you” and I continue to hope there will be more!! xoxoxoxoxox
Thank you again for the invitation to do this! It was such a great exercise!!
I really enjoyed hearing about your process, and can totally relate to the voice booming, “who do you think you are!!” Writing is a very daunting task indeed. “Brings you to your knees” – absolutely.
I’ve been a writer-dreamer since I was a kid, writing stories here and there, though mostly dreaming about it, but only recently (as I approach 40) have begun to call myself a writer and actually mean it (the voice is still there, never leaves, but I’ve worked on quieting it). I call that voice my “saboteur” and it has helped me to write about her, what she looks like, sounds like, the lies she tells me. Then I more easily recognize her when she shows up and I can tell her to get lost.
I think your perspective is very unique and like Lindsey wrote, I hope to read more.
I LOVE your blog! I am going to read as much as I can because I suspect my youngest might have a gluten intolerence (he has a skin issue) and I have been reading about transitioning … thank you for all of the great information. And kudos for auditioning for Listen to Your Mother. That is SO competitive!!!
It’s tortuous to read you write ‘Why would people who know me want to read this stuff?’ There is so much beauty in the simplicity of what you write and the lessons you learn from those simple moments. Reading your work is like a meditation. In fact, the reason I continually come back to read your blog, no matter how long it’s been, is because I’ve really never read anything that compares to your style and the insights you glean. It’s breathtaking for me and I thank you for sharing your life with me as a reader. I’m so grateful you’re in the blogosphere.
Thank you Angela. That means so much coming from you. Honestly, I am kind of speechless. xo
I’m reading, Pam. 🙂
Thank you my dear! I miss you being here!! We rode by “your” house the other day and it’s not the same. I hope you are having a great time in Guam!!
I think you write at SUCH an interesting intersection of being a yoga teacher, and a mother, on a military base. I have always thought, “This would make such a good book.” Know that you have much to offer to the world.
Thank you Elizabeth. Writing a book means I need to find a better process:)
Thanks for letting us inside your mind as you think about the writing and, as you do so well, comment on life’s process, which the writing process does, in many ways, reflect. (Boy, that was a LOT of commas!). Thanks for the tag, Pamela. I’ll see you next week!
Can’t wait for next week!
Okay, a quick note on my iPhone in response to your comment about “who would want to read what I have to say?” I can’t let that comment go unaddressed! I love to read and run. I love yoga, being a mom to my two boys(but maybe love it a tiny bit less now that they’re teens;) and know nothing about military life. You could write about anything and I think I would read it and relate and feel a complete sense of awe and wonder at how you write so beautifully. I can’t remember how I found your blog but I await a book and get so excited when you write something new on your blog. Sorry so scattered and rushed but had to let you know that you are an amazing writer that I wish I knew in my everyday life… Please keep at it!!! 🙂 you’re incredibly talented.
We are kindred spirits! I get so excited any time I meet another mom of two boys:) And you run and do yoga!! Some day maybe we can be neighbors. Thank you for commenting!
Here’s to becoming less lonely through the process of trying to make sense of things… or maybe just bonding in our ever-humbling realization that it’s almost impossible to really make sense of things… or maybe to making better sense ourselves through reading voices like yours. Hugs
Hugs to you too my friend.
I loved reading about your process.
You crack me up. I am glad you enjoyed reading about my non-process:)
Pamela, I only follow 3 blogs – have tried many, but so few feed my spirit. Yours is one I keep. It makes me sad to think that the writing that blesses me so much is such a struggle for you. Your words have the power to bless – maybe knowing that will help you to stop needing to try so hard and just let them come?
Thanks Julie. I am honored I am one of your three! In terms of the writing struggle, maybe I was too dramatic, but I think it’s hard for all writers. Most writers love to have written but hate having to write. I think Stephen King said that?
Awesome! This was so interesting since you professed your doubts and fears. Most writers would take a blog tour like this and talk themselves up.
On #1, most of us don’t fit together at the seams. And that is what makes humans so extraordinary. I have two VERY different sides…the simplistic hippie Yogi and the complicated history/fashion/food/beer/travel lover. Wait, that’s more than two. : )
Anyway, writing about all of these contradictions is relative since they all come together to portray who we are. People connect with that honesty.
Thank you Britt! I hope the hippie and the history buff in you are loving your new digs!
I’m glad you have some loose ends. !. the tight weave can be a bit constricting in matters of creativity. whatever your ‘process’, the bits that we get are pretty great. so, thanks for keeping on…
Tons of loose ends:) Thank you Kate!
I miss your writing. I have been mostly blog absent the past year… I need a new way to remember to see these. I love, love, love laughing out loud here. So funny.
I took a writing class a couple of years ago – mostly to make sure I kept writing. We had to do a process piece and I came this close to not doing it – thought it was a waste of time. I loved doing it.
I love reading more about your process. And I’m glad I’m not the only one who drags myself to the keyboard!