When I first was asked to take part in the #MyWritingProcess blog hop, I laughed. Unlike other writers, I don’t have much of a formal process. I sit at a desk. I write. I get up and separate children and toys. I drink more coffee. I change a diaper. I write some more.
That’s not very inspiring. It’s definitely not a cabin in the woods, or a quiet coffee shop. But maybe that’s the thing. Writing for me isn’t about the perfect setting and the best computer and the quiet and the trendy music playing in the background. Writing is about clearing a space in the mess of normal living for something that’s important.
Stephanie from Uptownerupnorth knows all too well what that means. She and her husband and baby are on a 4th generation family farm – a real, functioning, machinery-filled farm – in Northern Minnesota. Farms take time. Farms take everything. But in the middle of all that, they give you the most amazing things to notice, and through her blog posts, I see Stephanie taking advantage of that. Stephanie, thanks for inviting me to take part in the hop, and for the words you too are making time to put down.
So. What am I working on?
I think this is supposed to be a “my next big project” sort of question, but who am I kidding. I have twins and a toddler. I’m working on making sure we have enough diapers to cover tiny butts and enough apples in the fridge to satisfy my daughter’s new three a day habit.
In the odd times I find myself at the computer, I hammer out a blog post, scramble to keep up with emails, and scour Craigslist for things like “medium-sized outdoor dogs that don’t eat chickens.”
Someday I’ll save enough cash to go back and finish my MFA in Creative Writing. In the meantime, I go back and edit my poems, save them in yellow electronic folders marked “done” or “in progress” or “what the.” Once in a while, I do this scary thing called submitting.
And every so often, when the warm little bodies of my girls are heavy and horizontal for the night, I find my way to the keyboard. I’m slowly circling around ideas of food and memory and fellowship, and of this strange word called hospitality. I don’t know where it’s going, and that’s ok. Sometimes it’s better that way.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Is this a trick question? My work is simply my own – my musings, my questions. If you wanted to put me in a bucket, I’d tell you I try to write in Midwestern plain speak. That I need my descriptions to be like mirrors. That I have a voice just as you have a voice. That we all deserve to hear one another in whatever medium we choose to speak through.
Why do I write what I do?
There is no escaping the routine of my daily life, but through writing, I make myself take the time to see my routines as rituals, and this makes me want to live differently.
I write about faith because Jesus is constantly shaping me. I write about grace because being shaped hurts. I write about parenting because it is the event that has changed me the most. I write about food because I love to eat. I write about the ideas and words that tail me through my days, hanging out in my rear-view mirror.
I write because I live in a world that deserves examination. Sometimes that’s in poetry, sometimes it’s in a blog post, sometimes it’s creative non-fiction. Sometimes it’s an email, a caption, a hash tag. But all of these things make me pay attention, and that’s what I need.
How does your writing process work?
People are posting great pictures of scrawly notebook pages and favorite places to write, but for me, it’s about efficiency. I don’t have a lot of time to write, so when I do get a moment, it’s serious business. Here are my unofficial rules:
- Get something to drink. Anything. (Ok not anything. I never drink milk while I write.) Usually it’s either coffee or water. Call me a purist. Or call me cheap. That’s just usually what I have on hand.
- Sit up straight. I have to pay attention to my words. I don’t write well if I’m slouched over, sprawled on the couch, or even leaning back in my chair. I always sit on the edge of my seat, like some sort of over-eager school girl.
- Skip any music that has words. I need my mental playing field not to have any opponents. And yes, I did play sixth grade volleyball. How did you know? (My sports metaphors rock.)
- Know when to break. You can only push so hard on an idea that’s not fully developed. If I’m not getting somewhere with a thought, I leave it and come back.
- Come back. Preferably with another beverage. Make yourself come back even if you don’t want to. What happens can be amazing. Or it can stink, and then you just save it away as fodder for another idea later on. Either way, come back. Always come back.
The next three writers in the blog hop are crazy different, and crazy talented. Allow me to introduce them, and to encourage you to go visit them next Tuesday for their own thoughts on writing and process.
Kasey Jackson is a fellow twin mama I met in a Facebook group focused on twins born in 2013. Somehow when I was whining about diapers and mopping, she finished a book. I know. Overachiever. She’s also hilarious. There may or may not be a series of Instagram videos entitled “Kasey vs.” that make me snort laugh whenever they show up in my feed. Her blog is focused mainly on her book, Blue, so you should definitely head over and see what it’s about. You can even download a free preview of the first chapter, which means you’ve got something to read on the bus ride/couch/coffee shop chair tonight.
Anna Palmquist is one of the magical people in my life I wish I got to hang out with more. Luckily, she’s a part of my writing group, and sometimes, when she busts out an idea so full of wisdom and humor and reality, I’m floored I get to say I know her. Anna recently started grad school and is focusing on writing Young Adult Fiction, which is totally hip. She also recently started blogging at Writing Young Adult Fiction , which is exactly as is sounds. For those of you that love process and prose and the YA world, this is your new landing pad.
Courtney Fitzgerald possesses a wisdom that comes hard-earned. She writes poignantly real prose in her blog Our Small Moments and her work appears in the collection I Just Want to Be Alone (I Just Want to Pee Alone). She’s a fantastic photographer and busy mama of two, and may or may not have time to take part in the hop but either way, go read her stories, marvel at her pictures and be reminded about the importance of living in appreciation for the ones you love. Oh, and one more brag. She’s family. 🙂
6 thoughts on “#MyWritingProcess and why it works (for me)”
Rachel – you make me laugh out loud, smile, cry – I just love reading your posts. Though I am no longer in your world of small children, I still love reading about your life. (I love the kind of dog you are looking for!). Your writing is an inspiration to me. I am a writer wannabe and in fact, have recently started a blog myself. Some day I may have the courage to make it known publicly it is out there. Keep up the good work.
Maggie, thank you. Just… thank you. 🙂 I’m glad we can stay connected. And tell me where you’re blogging at when you’re ready! PS – if ever you hear of such a dog existing, let me know.
Rachel! Great Post! It sounds like you to have a pretty nailed down process, and I love it! I have too much time, and I’m wondering if that might be part of my problem. I’ve got “I’ll do it later” syndrome. Thanks for hoping to me!
Anna! Thanks friend. It’s funny because even in it’s non-process state, it’s still a process of some sort. It’s still the work of getting the butt in the chair – and I think that’s a struggle for EVERYONE. Excited to read your ideas next week!
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