Oh, the blank page. Is there anything more frightening? I spend an awful lot of time looking at an awful lot of nothing, waiting for something to happen. Although the creative process is as individual as a fingerprint, writers can’t help but ask each other “how do you do it?” in hopes that they might find a new way to coax the muse into speaking.
I’ve been tagged by two of my favorite writers, Sarah W. Bartlett and Bolton Carly, to talk a little about my writing process. They are fellow members of Wordsmith Studios, the writing community I call home. Finding WS was a gift. Finding these two women was a blessing.
Sarah is both writer and muse, poet and teacher. Our paths have crossed over and over again without even knowing it. It amazes me that it took us this long to finally meet. You can find her at Sarahscapes where you can read more about her work with Women Writing for (a) Change-Vermont.
Bolton is my back-of-the-class buddy. A fellow funny lady, and Midwesterner, we live to crack each other up. You can find her at Bolton Carly’s Blog.
So my task is to answer three questions and tag three writers. Pull up a chair. Here we go.
What am I working on?
I’m in the process of editing my novel… again. It’s been like a master class in story construction. I experiment, learn, and make each draft stronger. It’s a story about the handcuffs of “should.” A young woman has to choose between the future she planned for and the present that brings her unexpected joy, knowing that pursuing one will destroy the other. We all have our creation myth–who we are supposed to be. Life then teaches us who we really are. Reconciling the two is not always easy. That makes it all sound so dramatic, but it’s more like a beach read. If you’re interested, I have a Pinterest board of photos that I use to ground the book.
I have two WIP outlines competing for this year’s NaNoWriMo slot. I’m working through the foundations of both. Whichever one is ready, wins. I’m usually a pantser, but I’m trying to develop some plotting infrastructure to make the next novel stronger.
And finally, there is Momaiku, my other love. If you haven’t visited, stop by. I’m hoping to have interesting things to say on that front by the end of the year.
The summer has been tough on my writing. I’ve spent a great deal of it driving the Dude around, but it gives me lots of material. Come fall, I’m hoping to put it all down on paper. I want to get back to my poetry (hear that Sarah) and write more short fiction.
How does my writing process work?
When I write for this blog, I’m usually inspired by a situation. I know what I want to write about, but I don’t know why. I’ll start writing and keep going until the well is dry. Then I run. While I run, I usually discover what I’m really writing about, and I come back and revise. Inevitably, the initial paragraph ends up being nothing more than throat clearing, and gets edited out. I’m always struck by the “oh, so that’s what my point is” feeling.
Momaiku comes to me in snippets of language. I hear a phrase and write it down in a notebook that I carry with me. I’ll go back to it once a week, and write a bunch of haiku in one pass. I hate to break it to you, but where this blog is fact (at least the essay portion), Momaiku is fiction. My son and I don’t speak in perfect blocks of five and seven syllables. My Dude inspires Momaiku, but my haiku is the voice of a hypothetical mother and son. The interaction is reflective of my relationship with the Dude, and yes, he really is that funny, but not on command. Thus, I make it up.
My fiction writing is often visual. I see a situation or a photograph, and the story unspools. For example, when I wrote Cat’s Eye, I had spent the afternoon with my mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s, saw a photograph of marbles, and the two ideas collided. I keep a notebook of ideas that I use as inspiration–situations, words and phrases, snippets of dialogue and photographs. Like my blog writing, I often don’t know what my work is about until I get it down on paper.
I’d like to say it’s more organized and deliberate, but I’m not. I am a creature of ritual–I keep schedules and lists and don’t deal well with ambiguity or uncertainty. When I force my writing to fit a strict process or timetable, however, the analytical side of my brain takes over and deprives the creative side of oxygen. There is nothing more thought smothering than the pressure to get to “done.” On the other hand, one cannot rely on spontaneity–therein lies the conundrum that I struggle with every day.
Authors that I admire
There are so many! Margaret Atwood, Richard Russo, David Sedaris, Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling, Barbara Kingsolver, Norah Ephron. I’m a promiscuous reader, but mostly favor women’s fiction. The books I’m raving about at the moment are The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern; The Art Forger, by B. A. Shapiro , and Where’d You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple.
Who do I tag?
The first person I’ll tag is Veronica Roth. She is the most wildly creative person that I know. I would totally love to live in the universe of her imagination. Even a peek into how she works is sure to be a fascinating read.
Next is De Jackson, poet extraordinaire. She’s prolific, and her use of words is both playful and profound. How do she do it? Can’t wait to find out.
Finally, Linda G. Hatton. Both writer and publisher, I’m wonder how her role as the latter influences the former. She’s also a screenwriter, a medium I know nothing about. How is it different? I’d love to know!
What is your creative process? Share!
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph “The Page is Never Blank” by Martin Long © 2011