I have a tendency to let commitments creep up on me. Today’s was so stealthy, it scared the s*@;t out of me.
But my word is my word. A while back, fiction writer and pal Clifford Garstang asked me to take part in a two-part “Writing Process” challenge which involved me in answering four questions about my own process. I love to talk about process—my own, my friends, my mentors—so part “A” was easy. Here goes:
PART A: PROCESS
Q1 What are you working on?
Two things. I finished my second novel, The Beginning Things, last fall and have been looking for a great agent. It’s been a tough hunt, and I’m resisting the "flood of query letters" approach: I want someone good...someone who fits. This weekend, I worked on line edits before sending a full manuscript to a stellar NY agency. Fingers crossed. I also have a poetry manuscript I’m shopping around: “Love, Love—all that wretched cant.”
Q2 How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Odd question. I think too much emphasis is put on what makes our work “different.” In fact, the agents and publishers I’m approaching want to know whom I'm chiming with rather than against. I’m not out necessarily to write something unique or zany or ground-breaking: I want to write something really good, something memorable, something that resonates with readers. If that happens to be unique, zany and ground-breaking, that’s great. What I really want, though, is to produce work that is brilliantly written, evocative, and enduring.
Q3: Why do you write what you do?
The reason I write the work I write is because it’s the only work I can write. I write in order to explore situations and questions that interest me, and often, they interest me because they are unresolved and unanswered in my own life. Fiction allows me to go back and rather than play the “I wish I’d said that” game, I get to say shit and see what happens. Fiction allows me to tell lies and win. And maybe, deep down, that’s what I really like to do.
Q4: How does your writing process work?
I have to have time and zero distraction. And I can make a distraction out of laundry. What’s working for me recently is taking myself out of my usual space. I rent cheap off-season cabins without internet or tv in state parks for a week and take my dog and no books. I try and do that three or four times a year. If I can’t get away, I clean the house, do the laundry, do the shopping, walk the dog, clear my desk…and then I sit down and work for about two hours straight. That's my limit at home. While I work, I listen to medieval madrigals: if it’s Saturday, I listen to the opera on NPR.
PART B: PASS IT ON
The second part of the challenge proved overwhelming. Cliff said I needed to find three other writers to commit to the same challenge. I duly approached writers whose work I respect…only to find that one of them had already taken the challenge and two respectfully declined the opportunity on the (valid) grounds of…lack of time/interest. So I had to find three more fellow writers to take up the cudgel.
I failed and for that, I’m sorry. I think I came late to the buffet and either the good food had been eaten or the writers were on a diet.
But I did find a visual artist—Chris Callahan—who was up for it, and I encourage you next week (04/28/14) to learn about how thecreative process spans medium, mode and genre. (So sorry, Cliff, that I ditched on this part of it all. I was amazed at how difficult it was to find a writer blogging. It seems that a year or so ago, the woods bristled with them.)
Chris's bio: “I have been writing and painting/drawing for over thirty years. I was a contributing writer for the alternative magazine “Lightness of Being” in the early 1990s, and have had my short stories When Spirits Soars and To Ride an Autumn Mare featured in “Southern Women’s Words” as well as having contributed poetry to several anthologies. I currently maintain the Blog “The Artist Launch”, a resource for artists to find current calls to artists as well as helpful tips on creativity and art tutorials.”