Vikki over at Up Popped a Fox invited me to participate in a blogging exercise on “My Writing Process.” And so I’m sitting here at midnight, trying to finish up before I get on a plane tomorrow. I’m still recovering from my sleepless weekend at the Mom 2.0 Summit, where I didn’t write but where I got a chance to think about writing a lot, and I’m happy and bleary, but I’m pushing through anyway.
And it occurs to me that maybe that sums up exactly my writing process.
I have four questions to answer, so without further ado, here goes:
1. What am I working on?
In October, I finally gave up the ghost on the novel I’d been working on since approximately 1998. By “working on,” I mean that:
- I wrote 60 pages in 1998
- let the whole thing sit around for about a decade before I applied for a grant to finish it
- got the grant
- completed a shitty first draft
- got some great feedback on it and then let it sit for another two years
- wrote a vastly improved second draft
- got some more decent feedback
- wrote the third draft until I had about 30 pages left to go and then decided, “You know what? This is done.” Just like that.
It was odd how non-dramatic it was to let the novel go. Really, it had collapsed under the weight of its own layers. I learned a lot of things in the process, including the fact that one can be a very good writer but that doesn’t mean that one will necessarily write a decent novel.
In the meantime, I wrote what started out as an essay and turned into a performance piece, called Overflow. I wrote the whole thing in the space of about three very intense days, did a reading, got some funding to expand the piece, and am now slated to perform it in October (more details to come). It’s about the aftermath of that lingerie bender I went on in February 2012. Among other things.
I have no real desire to attempt long-form fiction again, but at the end of last summer I woke up at 4 AM with about a dozen ideas for short stories rattling around in my head. I was wise enough to get out of bed and write them down on paper (because no, I never remember in the morning), and I think that my next big creative project may be to chip away at those for couple of years.
I used to write tons of personal essays, but I’ve slowed down a bit on that front. These days, I blog relatively infrequently here, weekly for Today’s Parent, and monthly for VillageQ. I’m also a full-time freelance writer. Some of the projects I worked on recently include this website , several print articles for Today’s Parent (like this one), an annual report and several newsletters. Pays the bills, and I also love my clients.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not quite sure how to answer this question, partly because I’m not sure what my genre is (Mommy blogging? Queer mommy blogging? Personal blog? Writing blog? All of the above?).
People have told me that this site is unique because:
I’m so honest. I’m a bit conflicted about this because I feel as though leave out so much. But I suppose what makes it onto the screen is honest, if abbreviated.
it’s hilarious. I love this, but it’s always a surprise to me. Before I started blogging, no one ever told me I was funny.
it’s a queer parenting site that doesn’t focus primarily on being queer or parenting.
it’s well written. Thank you to everyone who has said that. I started blogging primarily because I wanted a regular writing practice, and I think it’s very useful tool for improving the craft.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I try to remember that this blog isn’t a scrapbook or a journal — that I don’t have to keep readers up-to-date or record each moment. Rather, it’s a place where I play with words. I like to focus on tiny moments, find links between things that ostensibly have nothing in common.
Mostly I write about what interests me in the moment. I write to figure out how I feel about things. I write for the sake of writing — to keep my hand in the game, to keep my fingers moving, to remind myself that it’s not about the muse or my mood. I’m a writer, so I write.
4. How does my writing process work?
I’ve been freelancing for the better part of two decades, and have written hundreds, possibly thousands, of articles. At this point, I’m past procrastinating or angsting about writing for clients (the bottom line, you know?): I just throw myself at the screen. Hopefully, I find the lede first (the process is always so much easier if I can start off with a good beginning). But if not, I’ll jump in with a few random paragraphs in the middle or find a good quote from an interview and jump off/flesh out from there.
On days when I’m having a hard time focusing, I’ll turn on Freedom or Antisocial — the former prevents me from accessing the Internet or e-mail at all, and the other one left me access the Internet but shuts down all social media sites. They’re brilliant. In fact, I just turned on Freedom because writing about my process makes me jumpy.
Personal writing can take a bit longer. I am a procrastinatory tidier and creator of lists, including a running list of ideas for blog posts. Sometimes blogging is intuitive, easy; sometimes, I set a timer for 30 min. and tell myself that’s how long I have to create a post. It’s rare that I go back and revise once I’ve got a draft — I’ll work and rework essays dozens of times, but for me blogging is (mostly) a place to play.
With personal essays, I’ll write pages and pages of notes, by hand, trying to get out every last thought and feeling without worrying about crafting. Then, I’ll usually go back and begin with a story, layering anecdote with analysis until I’m somewhere new. I hate tidy endings.
I’m tagging Emma Waverman and Tanya Gouthro.