Ok, so I have been tagged for the Writer Tag and Blog Hop by the wonderful Sonal Champsee. She is both funny and smart, and that pretty much describes all of my most favourite people. Plus, she’s nice. She didn’t just tag me for this thing, she emailed me first and asked me if I had the time to do it and if I wanted to do it. (That’s very nice.) And, at the time, I was, like, Yes and Yes! But then life got crazy and I got busy and now it’s been on my To Do List for two weeks. Today, I’m moving this task from the To Do List to the Doing Right Now List.
The Writer Tag and Blog Hop is an opportunity for readers and writers to learn about new writers (through four questions). Since the Tag moves through friends and professional acquaintances—instead of, say, by genre—you may get connected to a writer you’d never have known of otherwise. For example, I am tagging my dear friend, Jeffrey Ricker. He lives in St. Louis, MO, USA and writes awesome YA and genre fiction that is totally unlike anything that I write. Now you get to check him out because he is my friend! Yay!
Here are The Questions:
1) What am I working on?
Like always, I am working on multiple projects at once. Because I write creative non-fiction, I usually have a few articles competing for my attention. For example, I was working on an article about parenting in the age of internet pornography, which I continue to tweak while I shop it around to various publishers. I’ve also started on a shorter piece that I’m really excited about. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a humorous piece on how one particular family arrangement could save you a fortune living in Vancouver, one of the most expensive cities in the world.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Puh-lease. What arrogant asshole came up with this question? Next!
3) Why do I write what I do?
Probably because I’m not very good at making up stories or inventing characters.
I love telling true stories. I like the craft of it, especially when I get to combine various real-life stories to make meaning out of lived experiences. “The Devil’s In Her Mind” (Rhubarb 34) and “The Wrong Way” (The New Quarterly 124; you can find a link to the full essay here) are two examples of when I used this technique most successfully (I think). The making-meaning part of writing brings me the most satisfaction. And if I can do this without ever telling the reader how to feel or aggressively guiding them to a conclusion of my own, then it’s even better. Ideally, when people read my work, I want everyone to find their own unique meaning.
I remember when “The Wrong Way” was being workshopped and someone said, “The stories about the pets don’t belong in this piece. This is a story about your sister!” Someone else said, “The stories about the pets don’t belong because it’s a story about a dysfunctional family.” And then someone else said, “All the stories belong here, because it isn’t a story about your sister or one family. It’s an essay about grief.” That one piece could be so many different things to so many people, well, that’s a great feeling for me.
4) How does my writing process work?
Well, I get one tiny, little idea for a piece. One thing someone said or one moment in time. And then I start thinking about it. I think about it for a really, really long time. Every time I think about it, something firms up in my mind, or settles. Or I add pieces. Or I take away pieces. And this all happens very slowly in mind—sometimes for weeks, usually for months, or even, rarely, for years.
Then one day, it becomes The Day. It is like the piece has been percolating so slowly for so long and then one day it wants to boil over! It’s suddenly a dire emergency. And I have to write it all right away or else. I’m not really sure what “else” is, but it is INTENSE.
Then I’m like a mad fiend, pounding away on my laptop, until it all comes out. Pretty much like this:
Gross, right? I know.
Once, I thought about a paragraph for over a year. I thought about it on a daily or weekly basis. I thought about what I wanted to accomplish. Then when I figured that out, I thought about how to do it. Then one day, I was taking a shower, and all the words came to me. All the right words. I jumped out of the shower and fiendishly pounded those words out. Sat back, made a few edits, and then—that was it. I was done.
I remember telling a writer friend of mine the next day about how pleased I was about that paragraph and how it had all gone down. And he said, “Oh, and then you woke up the next day and realized it was garbage?” And I frowned, and said, “Noooo. It was good. I should hope it was good—I’ve been thinking about that one paragraph for over a year!” He told me about his process: where he gets an idea, writes it down, looks at it later and realizes it’s shit, then has to painstakingly edit it for weeks or months to get it right. Well, I think I probably go through all of those same steps. I just do most of them in my head.