Writing Process? Oh, Yeah...That

Each writer's writing process is like a box of yummy mixed chocolates--each one different and unless they are labeled you don't know what you're getting until you bite into it. Here's how my process works:

What am I working on?

I'm one of those dreaded multi-taskers. Seems like I always have several things on the gas burner. Currently I'm putting the final touches on the 2nd Edition of a biography that was published in 2005. This is the life story of my amazing aunt Jacqueline H. Day and it has been more than a pleasure to research her life and imagine what her life was like during a time when women were struggling for their identities.

My second project is compiling eighteen of my already published flash fiction stories with a novella set in Turkey, a place I love. That project is nearing completion as is the biography.

And last but certainly not least, while the 2nd Jessie Murphy Mystery is being reviewed at a publisher in Tennessee, I'm several chapters into the third one.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Always an interesting question. Everything I write has a chip of my soul and my experiences embedded deeply into it. Since my soul and what I do is exclusive to my individual creative interpretation, I guess that makes each work unique to me. My amateur sleuth artist Jessie Murphy, like many amateur sleuths, is saucy, zany and smart. But she's also a funny, superstitious woman who talks to a Plaster of Paris gargoyle. No one would think that was me. Right?

Why do I write what I do?

I like variety. I like challenge. Writing is what I do. When I was a graduate student and taking creative writing classes my poetry mentor, Paul Shuttleworth said to me, "Run don't walk from academia. It will kill your creativity." I did just that. While I taught as an adjunct in colleges and universities around the world, only once did I apply for a full-time position. I'll blog about that in another post. It is my firm belief that committee work inhales the soul's creative energy and spits it out like a piece of spoiled fruit. To this day, even though I don't have a pension, I thank Paul for his advice.

When I first began sending out my poetry, I was the most surprised when the first one was published in a literary journal. That a collection of my poems was accepted as my dissertation had me thunderstruck. My assumption then was that the department just wanted to get rid of this woman who couldn't stop writing.

I once said I could never write from a prompt. I tried it and now I can do it at a drop of a flash drive. I once was told by a New York editor that I might not have the DNA to write a mystery. I'm on my third. I feared I didn't have it in me to research and write the story of someone's life. The project was sponsored by The Iowa Arts Council and the college where I teach writing part-time and is going into the 2nd Edition. I write and read to feed a soul that pulses with the desire to create and meet challenges. The process of writing and living the life of a writer is what it's all about for me. Product is secondary. Process is all.

How does my writing process work?

When I'm working on a book or short story or poem, I write with a pencil first. Often on my couch, in my sanctuary. Pillow behind my back. First word on page. See what happens. I guess in author lingo that makes me a "pantser." I write by the seat of my pants. I don't outline. Coffee shops? Not so much. I find them distracting. I do have a favorite neighborhood bar that I stop into. I find I can write there. They've gotten used to bringing me tonic water and lime.

Imagination first, then rationality. That's my motto.

When I write it's like reading a book to see what's going to happen. After this, I take what I wrote to my computer and type it in and see if I can make sense of it. That is, if what I wrote is worth bothering to type. In the meantime, I read about my craft and let that knowledge soak in. I also read books in the same genre. Or I read a prompt and compose a short short story or a poem. I love it when a character or a unique image pops onto and off the page, someone or some picture I had no idea was alive and living inside me. Sometimes I'm inspired by a work of art, sometimes a flower, sometimes a person sitting at a corner makes me grab for my writing pad and pencil. But blog writing I type in directly. Why? Not sure, but that's what I do. The important thing is that I write--every day. It could be just an entry in my journal, it could be total gobblygook on a scrap of paper. But what it is, is me writing, attending to, nurturing my soul.

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