Thank you to Jessica Dewberry for inviting me to participate in the writing blog process tour. She is an LA-based writer and I recently had the pleasure of meeting her and hearing her words at readings. You can read all about her process here.
I’m in the very beginning stages writing my first book.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Since I’m just in the beginning stages of writing this book, I’m not exactly sure.
Why do you write what you do?
I write about sexuality, identity, illness, nature, cities, family, friendships, and trauma. I write about these things because they are a part of my life and they are complex. I seek to understand them.
How does your writing process work?
Right now I work part-time and am single, which means that I’m only responsible for myself and have a lot of time to write. I make a deliberate choice to live like this but it also has to do with circumstance. I bring this up because it affects my writing process and at this point in my life, I am grateful I have so much time to dedicate to my writing.
My writing process is a fluid one. My process is gentle and cautious and spacious. I work on the book in pieces, little by little.
This summer, I’ve held myself accountable to the book by making sure I write something new at least once a week. For months the day was Wednesday and I cleared my entire day. On writing days, I do things that may not seem related to writing, that may look like a waste of time. I might do laundry or wash dishes. I might do yoga in the garden or dance in my bedroom or masturbate in bed. On writing days, I do many things that are not writing and these actions are an integral part of the process because what I’m really doing is making space, externally and internally, for creation to take place. And usually there’s a point when a feeling occurs or a mood sets or something very subtle and quiet occurs that I can’t quite describe and that’s when I know it’s time to write. Sometimes that moment doesn’t occur but I still go to the desk anyway because it’s a Wednesday and I told myself I would write something.
Once I write, I put the pages away and I don’t look at them until a week later. After those seven days pass, I read my writing and begin to edit, if it’s something I can use. I spend hours and days editing. It’s hard for me to back off a piece once I’m editing. I usually sit there and forget to blink and eat and hydrate and then my stomach growls and I reluctantly leave my desk and fix something to eat and then come back to the desk. I chow down as I edit. It’s graceless. I would like to learn to be more mindful of my body and slowing down during the editing process.
After I get to a place where I know the writing still needs work but can’t see the solution, I send the edited draft to two writers and two editors. Usually I give them 10 days to get back to me and they give me line edits or global edits and I review them and go back to hours of editing.
Then there inevitably comes a time when I feel utterly bored with the piece. I have looked at the same words and the same sentences that they do nothing for me. That’s when I know it’s time to let it go and work on another part of the book.
Part of my writing process also includes being an active member of the creative writing community. I read books, produce literary events, freelance edit interviews and stories, edit my friend’s work, meet writers for work dates. I do so because I can’t do this work alone. Community grounds me and my writing. Community inspires, educates, and encourages me.
Lastly, I do my best to pay attention to what is happening inside me and outside me. I do my best to pay attention and bring compassion to these things. This week, I watched the live steam of Ferguson late into the night. I read tweets and new stories. In the morning, I woke up and read books. This week, I read two quotes. The first by J. Krishnamurti: To pay attention means we care, which means we really love and the second by Romain Rolland: There is only one heroism in the world: to see the world as it is, and to love it. I believe that seeing things as they are, and loving them is the hardest part of life. I consider it my life work and hope that my writing process and my stories reflect this work.
I tag Steph Cha, Lisa Dusenbery, and Traci Kato-Kiriyama to participate next week.
Steph Cha is the author of Follow Her Home and the sequel Beware Beware, both published by St. Martin’s Minotaur. She writes book reviews and restaurant reports for The L.A. Times. She lives with her husband and basset in her native city of Los Angeles, California.
Lisa Dusenbery is a former managing editor at The Rumpus. She grew up in Saint Paul, studied at Pomona College, and lived in the Bay Area before moving to Los Angeles. A lover of sentences and stories, she is working on sharing her own.
Traci Kato-Kiriyama is an interdisciplinary artist, arts producer, and community organizer. She is the founder of the Tuesday Night Cafe Project, a multi-disciplinary, free-to-the-public performance space that gathers local Los Angeles artists and the Aslan Pacific Islander community in the downtown and Little Tokyo regions of the city. She will be posting her answers on facebook.