Last week I volunteered to be part of an author's blog hop, a project that gives writers an opportunity to reflect on their writing practice. Today, I am following Christian Fink-Jensen in the blog hop who answered these same 3 questions last week. 1) What are you working on? 2) Why do you write what you do? 3) How does your writing process work. The idea is that writing is a solitary and somewhat mystical practice that is developed over time. We help each other out when we share our insights and strategies.
1. What am I working on? I am inspired by what's present in my life. Currently, am working on an essay about raising boys to be good compassionate people who will be good partners, workers, friends, citizens, and lovers. My sons are now eleven and fifteen. The conversations in our house are a non-stop source of entertainment and inquiry as my husband and I attempt to mediate the world we are living in. We discuss personal accountability, politics, well-being, gender, sexuality, personal responsibility, self-care, caring for elders, friendship, theater, books, music, magic, God, gods, the universe, the environment, food, and so on.
I am also working on a piece about marriage. My husband and I have been married for 27 years, and we are in the process of examining our relationship. I am looking at how we maintain our connection as the kids pull us in different directions. I am exploring the continual habitual arguments and looking at what's going on underneath the arguments. This piece is a collage and includes prose, poetry, lists, and links to resources that have helped me grapple with what will keep our marriage alive for the duration in a time when relationships have become disposable. (Some marriages do need to end.)
My big project is long-form fiction about a woman who accidentally discovers that her parents are Holocaust survivors who have erased their past and raised her, their only child, as an American with a vague sense of Christianity in the sixties. When this woman's only son, born out-of-wedlock with a significant learning disability, is unsuccessful in school, he discovers the alternate world of magic which becomes his all-consuming passion. Through magic, he connects with his grandfather and slowly uncovers the fact that his grandfather was a well-known magician in Poland pre-World War 2, and it was magic that ensured his survival. As the past cracks open–mother, grandfather, and grandson take part in a great reveal.
2) Why do I write what I do? I write about what is alive for me ,and what I am trying to make sense of. As a yoga teacher and studio owner, I am interested in how people live in their bodies. I'm interested in what gets people to practice yoga or writing or living with awareness. I teach a class for people living with breast cancer, and some years back, I wrote a creative non-fiction piece called, Hiding from Breast Cancer. At times, I've struggled with depression and wrote about that in Area 25.
Currently, I'm interested in the loud voices in the women's movement talking about gun control and mental health. I read a lot online and see how body image for women is still a threat to our well being. In the last few days, I've read numerous articles on sexist dress codes, indie bookstores, Hachette, Amazon, live sushi, Fukushima fallout and children, and the disposing of live male chicks becomes they don't lay eggs. I'm sure that some of this will show up in my work.
3) How does my process work? I am messy when it comes to being creative. I take in informaiton all the time. Material comes to me through the senses, in print, sound, visually, etc. I sometimes feel like I am a filter. A lot goes through me. Sometimes I wish that I weren't so sensitive. I can feel snow in Alaska when I'm sitting in Seattle. I often sit with a knitting project on my lap and just dream/think about what I am working on and make notes. I have a pad by my bed, because I won't remember the urgent thoughts that wake me at night in the morning. I walk to clear my head. I have to shut out all noise except for music. I often write in a coffee shop with earbuds and only sometimes have music playing low.
I have had the good fortune of studying with Priscilla Long, author of the Writer's Portable Mentor. She has helped me learn to be a writer. She has taught me how to organize myself. I keep a List of Works, so I know what I have in my backlog. I keep a sentence book. I have a lexicon in which I put words that interest me, sometimes new words, sometimes old ones that I want to keep around. I learned about structure from her. I've learned the habits of being a writer from her.
Other books writing books that have influenced me are Robert Boswell's The Half Known World; Robert Butlers, From Where You Dream; Robert Ray's The Weekend Novelist, and all of the Graywolf books in the On Writing Series.
Finally, I have the support of fellow writers. I write every Monday morning and evening, Wednesday day, and Sunday day with different groups. Monday morning and Wednesday day are with people that I sit with and we work on our own stuff. We hold each other accountable to show and write. Monday night and Sunday day are generative groups that follow Natalie Goldberg's method from Writing Down the Bones.