My wonderful student, Serena Lin, who has just finished her MFA at Rutgers-Newark, invited me to participate in this blog project about process. (When I say just finished, I mean TODAY. Congrats, Serena. I’ll miss you!) The idea is that there are four writing questions that each writer will answer. I have to confess that I an uncomfortable with these questions. I feel like the answer to each of these would require me to write my autobiography– each from an different angle. But I adore Serena, so I am going to give it a shot.
1) What are you working on? I am working on a novel. A couple of years ago, when I was on a fellowship, I had to talk a lot about the work, even though it wasn’t done. And, it was terrible for my process. I think that talking too much about your work in progress can cause you to use up all your creative energy talking about. So I try only to talk about the parts that I have already written. Because talking about plot angles that haven’t happened yet, makes the writing feel stale when it actually happens, like chewing gum that’s already been chewed. I want to save my wonder for the page. If you’re interested, Here is a link to an article written about my WIP. It’s basically still true, but I don’t like to go into it for fear of hanging myself up. That’s the one thing I have learned: don’t hang yourself up.
2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre? I am not even sure what my genre is. ”Literary Fiction”? But what does that even mean any more? And as a black woman writer from the south, each of these becomes a “genre” of sorts. So how am I different from other southern writers? From other black writers? From other women writers? Then we can make a few combination “genres” too. So, you can see why I find these questions so complicated– and daunting. My work is different that other people’s because I’m different. I have my own voice and my own understanding of the world. Vague, I know, but it’s really the only thing I can say without telling my whole life story.
3) Why do you write what you do? I consider myself to a a writer of contemporary realism. I’m deeply concerned with how we live our lives today and by today I mean anything within my life time. I know that a lot of writers, especially black writers, are on a reclamation mission– to tell the stories that have forgotten and erased. I applaud this because a lot of stories have been lost. But at the same time, there need to be other writers who are capturing the here and now, keeping our lives from being our granddaughter’s reclamation mission.
4) How does your writing process work? It works the best way it can. I don’t have a set way I do it. I don’t even have a set schedule. I have preferences, but I don’t always get the circumstances that I prefer. I prefer to write in the morning. I prefer to journal for an hour or so (by hand, fountain pen.) Then I like to whip out my typewriter and bang away for a couple of hours. I have written each book differently, but here are some things that are consistent: I don’t outline and I write the first chapter last.
So that’s it from me on the subject. Here are Serena’s answers which are really cool and loaded with helpful information for emerging writers. Lots of advice and links. Check it out.
Now I am passing the baton to two terrific writers.
Bridgett M. Davis, author of the forthcoming novel Into The Go Slow. (It’s amazing, btw. And so is she.) Here’s her blog.
Nicole D. Collier, fellow Georgia Peach, and overall inspiring individual. She takes the mind-body-spirit connection to the next level and you can see her radiance in her writing. Here’s her blog.