Last week, one of my fellow Lesley University Alums, Audrey Camp (have I mentioned that I love the community that is Lesley?) tagged me to participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. Audrey is an American expat and freelance writer living in Oslo, Norway, and received her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley in 2012. Her essays have appeared in Forge and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. You can check out her take on her writing process at Audrey Camp, The Girl Behind the Red Door .
1. What am I working on?
One of the most difficult and fun aspects of my writing process is that my writing life reflects my personality. I like to call it eclectic. Some might call it scatter-brained, unfocused, or just plain weird. My husband tells me I’m the only person he knows who has the classical station jammed between the oldies rock and the country station on my car radio pre-set channels. I came to Lesley’s MFA program with several projects in various stages of completion. I also began one new project, a YA fantasy novel that became my thesis. Following graduation in January, I revised a completed draft of an historical fiction YA, a picture book, and one poem. Now I am trying to settle back down to complete my fantasy novel, but I admit that other projects, new and old, are clamoring for my attention as well. Just like my children, each of them shouts “Look at me! Look at me! No, REALLY look at me!” So I have begun to set monthly goals to try to corral the unwieldy herd into submission for submission’s sake.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I think this question could probably be answered in the same way by every writer: my work differs from others of its genre because of that elusive thing we call voice, which is made up, in part, of those aspects of our experience which inform us and drive us forward. We imbibe a character’s voice with aspects of that character’s personality, gender, ethnicity, sense of place. Similarly, my work as a writer is imbued with my voice-my experience as a person, my world-view, my sense of justice, worth, and import. These are the pieces of the world that influence and inform my writing, which is what sets it apart from other work in the same genre.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Audrey said “When it comes to writing stories, I have no choice.” This is true for me as well. When I was a kid, I read voraciously and I created my own stories with equal enthusiasm. It was my way of creating a utopian world, one that made sense and functioned as I knew the real world should. Now, story is for me the same kind of safe harbor, creating worlds that seek to make sense of the inconsistencies and injustices of life. When we write, we get to play God, and it is as close to understanding how difficult a job that might really be as we can probably come.
4. How does my writing process work?
Well, most days I would have to admit it doesn’t. Instead, I covet success to feed my guilty pleasure. It would be a luxury to be able to say “I’m a financial success as a writer, therefore I’m justified in spending time on my writing as if it were a real job.” I admit I have pangs of envy for writers who can treat themselves to whole days of writing, researching, and networking while knowing there will be a paycheck at the end to justify this time.
I have three kids, one husband, and four cats. My schedule shifts and morphs on a minute by minute basis at times. I try to plan my week, but usually there will be some event that changes all my plans. Last week, it was a cat in sudden renal failure, a child with a fractured thumb, and the list goes on from there.
I try to maximize time by networking (twitter, facebook, etc.) while I have time that is otherwise difficult to use (waiting at doctor’s appointments, drum lessons, etc.) I try to write a little each day, but there are often days where that doesn’t happen. I do think about my writing every day, planning my plot lines and getting to know my characters in my head, so I count that as writing, even if it’s happening while I’m driving, or walking, or doing laundry. I don’t subscribe to the idea that you must write every day to be successful. You just have to be dedicated to finishing projects on whatever schedule is feasible for you.
I like when I have deadlines to meet (whether for submission periods or self imposed) as it helps me to focus and stay on track. And, recently, I have begun to make use of two alumni groups where we check in with goals at the beginning of the month. Finally, I try to use my weekly writing group session as a deadline to the next chapter.
With respect to projects, my process is varied. Wherever the idea strikes me, at whatever point in the story that is, I begin. Sometimes it’s a scene in the middle. Sometimes it’s the climax, sometimes the first page. The seed that starts the story is my jumping off point. If it’s not the beginning, I get the crux of the seed down, then go back to the beginning and work toward the idea that started it all. From there, I usually continue in chronological order. I never start with endings, as it’s hard to know what will be needed in them, even if I know what the ending will be (I’m a happy ending person. There’s enough misery in the world that I don’t feel the need to add to it with my endings. I know some people will criticize me for this, but I haven’t yet found a legitimate reason in my work to veer from this philosophy, and I hope I never will.
So that is my working process. Next up, you can check out the writing processes of some of my completely awesome Lesley friends:
I hope you’ll check them out. A writer friend of mine, Patricia Easton, likes to quote the legendary children’s editor, Dinah Stevenson, with the following words of wisdom (and one of my favorite nuggets of writing advice): Your process is your process. Honor your process.