I’ve been tagged by the fantastic Dinty W. Moore to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour, in which writers talk briefly about their writing process and then pass the project on to three more writers like a chain letter. Dinty is editor of Brevity: A Journal of Concise Nonfiction, which you have to read. Have to. It’s the best brief nonfiction around. He’s the author of several excellent books, including Between Panic and Desire, a collection that I love and regularly teach from, as well as a forthcoming (yay!) collection that includes cocktail napkins. He’s a photographer, an artist, a former dancer, and also a very excellent human being. And funny. Did I mention that?
I’ve done this once before, but it’s come around again, and I can’t say no to ANYTHING (not true, but working on it…but obviously…) so I thought I’d give it another shot to see if my answers had changed.
1) What are you working on?
Since April 2014, when I last participated in the blog tour, my answer has changed. I’m working on a bunch of things at the same time: a book on chronic pain, a project about boundaries and borders and income inequality, and a collection of stuff about teaching the literary essay. I also have “finished” a memoir about living in the presence of substance abuse. I put the word “finished” in quotes because the book has not found a home, has not really started even looking for a home, so a thousand things could happen before it sees the light of day. But I need a break from it, so I took a few weeks off and then started dabbling in all the other things I want to do.
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
I’m not sure. More swearing, maybe. If the genre is “memoir,” then I sometimes include have more research. If the genre is “essays,” then I am more memoirish. Between two playgrounds. I think I wrote that last time. But my genre–I guess that would be literary nonfiction–is very wide and broad, so there’ s lot of room to play.
3) Why do you write what you do?
I need containers for my questions, and each project ends up organizing itself around a central set of those questions–though the books and projects rarely answer them. They just provide targets for me to throw things at for a while and then I exhaust myself long enough to move on to other questions.
4) How does your writing process work?
In the previous writing process post, I wrote about my need to protect at least an hour a day to write, and how much can sometimes happen in that hour. In the last month, I’ve experienced a little of the flipside: sometimes I go to my desk and I honestly don’t know what I’ll be working on. I’m between big projects and coming off a period of intense work. I’ve had to relearn how to noodle in various different projects at once and to be comfortable with that. I still put in my hour, but sometimes I’m staring at multiple documents wondering what to work on and feeling a little lost.
That’s okay. It still counts as writing. It’s deep thinking about where to go next. Indecision is a close-up view of one point in the decision-making process.
I love the feeling of being deeply in love and obsessed with one book, but that inevitably turns to being sick of the project as it gets close to being done. And then I panic: was that it? Was that my last big obsession and my last hopefully-a-book? I always forget that I have several open folders in my Dropbox, each of which has been gathering links and thoughts for years. I go back and forth between questions. When I’m tired of working on my “big thing” at the time, I collect thoughts for the “next thing.” And then when a “big thing” is done, I see what I’ve collected in the “next things” folder.
Now, I’m passing the torch to three writers I admire, and one of them took the kielbasa and pineapple photo and gave us these things as gifts:
Robert Greene II, a former student of mine at Georgia Southern University who is currently a Ph.D. candidate in American History at the University of South Carolina. He is going places. We will all know his name one day. He blogs at the Society for U.S. Intellectual History (I know, right?) and you can also find him on Twitter.
Bryan Ripley Crandall is a great friend I met when I started at Fairfield University. Literally on the first day of school, at new faculty orientation, we sat next to each other and couldn’t shut up. He is one of those people that makes magic happen, that connects people, that allows other people to shine. He does incredible work with the Connecticut Writing Project and makes community happen. He really inspires me and has helped me connect with service projects in the Bridgeport Public School system. And as SOON as I told him about this, he went home and wrote a wacky yet thoughtful post about writing, the writing process, kielbasa, pineapple, and so on. He published his BEFORE I published this, so I think that means the blog tour has defied the space-time continuum. Or something.
(Tangent: where my husband is from, a small town in west-central PA, EVERYONE gets a nickname. Many of these are ridiculous. I can’t even begin to describe it. I am waiting for him to write a huge essay about it. But they have even nicknamed kielbasa. They call it “kobo.” You needed to know that.)
And the third person is a three-headed fantastic hydra, the collective writing blog It’s Just Brunch, made up of Colin Hosten, Zac Zander, and Kate Gorton.These three have and will continue to make us proud!They are Fairfield MFA alums; you can learn more about the Fairfield low-res program here if you like.