The Writing Process: A self-interview (or why it took me six weeks to write this post)

Anyway, that doesn't answer the question I guess. Truth is I don't know how it differs other than it's my story in my voice. That's the beauty of writing fiction--or writing at all, really. No two people will craft the same thoughts into the same sentences in the same order. Even if it's a story with an ending that's already known. No two people will tell that story the same way.

More concretely, I suppose, much of my fiction deals with themes of identity--figuring out one's purpose--and also themes of friendship. The subject of female friendship is something I write on a lot. It interests me more, I suppose, than just writing a love story. Don't get me wrong, I love love--I'd really be a weirdo creep if I didn't--but when it comes to writing I think I just like examining the complexity and entanglements of relationships period, whatever their nature. Why do we interact with people the ways that we do. How do people influence us and change us? How do we influence and change them? That's an underlying theme in my current book.


Because that's what interests me. Or sometimes when it comes to poetry, it's just because it has to come out of me. That probably sounds horribly pretentious but many of my poems were written in what I can only describe as a fugue state--I have little recollection of writing them. I mean, I remember the seed of the idea and I remember putting a few words together and I remember endless polishing but often I don't remember the core that made up the experience. It's not quite the same with fiction and it's definitely not the same with journalism or my blog even.  For journalism, I write about things that either need to be covered or about things that encompass topics that interest me. For blog posts I tend to write about whatever is stuck in my craw at that particular moment.


I think the real question should be 'does it ever work?' Kidding. Kind of. I'm a horrible procrastinator and when I do get down to writing, more often than not I have that evil little voice in my head telling me how horrible my writing is.

I also get very easily distracted. The Internet does not help with this. Laundry does not help with this. A million and one minor work tasks definitely do not help with this.

In the last few years I've worked hard to push through some of these moments. To just write, almost blindly, and then sort out the mess later. I've been working from an outline on this book--which is great, but sometimes I think it can also constrain the creative process. Two years ago when I took the train out to see family in Texas I remember sitting, staring at the window, stuck in a particular spot on the book, stuck on what the outline was telling me to do. Finally I just looked down at the keyboard and started typing. At that particular moment I refused to listen to the evil voice, I refused to question the logic (or quality) of what I was writing; I refused to think too hard. I found the process pretty damn rewarding. Suddenly my story veered off course and I had a brand new character and subplot. I absolutely love the character that appeared out of nowhere once I shut off the more orderly, logical side of my brain. This is not to say that the revision on this particular writing wasn't brutal--it was--but it shows that creativity requires room to roam, wander and get lost.

That said, back to the outlines. I love working with an outline--it's vital to my journalism, too. For my book I also use flow charts and lists and other various visual tools. For example I have an online notebook with photos of what I think my characters look like. Last summer I started a family tree for my main character and I found that to be a really interesting process as it got me to better understand her quirks--most of this won't ever end up on the page, but it helps for me to know it. I also use maps, playlists and other tools that help me flesh out the characters.

Currently I'm taking a step back and applying the Save the Cat! beat sheet method to my story and that's taking me down a whole other rabbit hole. I probably should have done that first but it is interesting and useful to do it now because I think it's helping me identify issues that I might not have seen before I started writing even if I had done the beat sheet at the beginning. You know, hindsight is 20/20 and all that.



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