Desire + Need + Unpacking Power = #MyWritingProcess

This Monday’s post is part of a blog tour called My Writing Process. Please feel free to copy the questions and join the fun!

My Writing Process – Blog Tour: INSTRUCTIONS

Step 1: Acknowledge the person (& site) who involved you in the blog tour.

I met Joshunda Victoria Sanders when she was in my memoir class at VONA, writing this incredible, brave, powerful prose. I love getting her emails (you can, too, right here) because they’re always wise and generous. Her answers to the #MyWritingProcess questions are right here.

Step 2: Answer 4 questions about your writing process…

1) What are you working on?

• Finishing up a poetry collection that will come out this year from The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective. The title will be … (uh oh! coming soon … titles are hard!).

• Working on a top-secret novel. I could tell you more, but then I’d have to kill you. No, seriously. All I can say is that the novel is gory and politically scathing, and the plot offers me plenty of opportunities to kill off people who irritate me, which is super satisfying.

• Occasional freelance articles like this and this, including several pieces on craft for The Writer magazine.  I keep wondering if I should go back to a more regular journalism gig. Not like a j-o-b, but maybe a column? Should I? And if so, on what?

• My Ask the Unicorns advice column on living the creative life.

• Writing curricula and prompts and critiques and love notes for the writers in my courses. I love teaching and coaching because it keeps me in this ongoing, amazing conversation about process, which only other writers can truly understand.

2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

I work in a lot of genres, and all of my writing is deeply informed by a social justice ethic plus a quest to understand the power dynamics of societies as well as individuals. I’m always trying to understand and un-cohere the power structures that create suffering.

When I write a lesson for my students about overcoming writing blocks, for example, I’m really talking about how to undo internalized oppression.

In my poetry I’m deeply interested in the power of language. I don’t think it’s so important to self-consciously be different from others’ work; I’m happy to have influences and be part of the long stream of literary conversation, while also exploring whatever lights a spark in me.

Also I write about unicorns.

3) Why do you write what you do?

I’m driven by both desire and need.

Desire: Writing can be a deep pleasure. Poems are so fun, so satisfying. Fiction: You can make anything happen! How wild is that? Nonfiction: Nothing is more mysterious than reality.

Need: Writing is how I figure things out. Honestly, if I didn’t write, I wouldn’t understand people at all, not even myself.

4) How does your writing process work?

Layers. I start with research. All those links below to other people’s answers to these questions? Research. I don’t know why I thought their answers would help me, but I needed to read them before I started writing this.

When I’m ready to write, I draft almost everything longhand (except blog posts). Then I go back through my notebooks and type in the things worth typing.

Then I “edit” forever.

By “edit,” I mean that this is actually the real writing, but I fool myself that it’s going to be easier than writing because it’s “just editing.” In this phase I re-write, merge fragments from various notebooks, separate sections, mix in new bits of research, cut out old bits, and freewrite entire new sections that I then integrate into the whole.

By “forever,” I mean until everything finally gels. Usually I don’t know this until the second it happens. Until then, I oscillate between hope that it’s almost done, and despair that it will never be done.

That’s the “first draft,” although in reality, almost everything in it has been drafted and re-drafted at least 20-30 times. At this point, I turn it over to my editor and/or beta readers for feedback, have a mimosa, go to a movie like a normal person, and wait to begin the next round.

The “second draft” goes fairly quickly, but often involves some large structural or organizational shift, resulting in the “final draft,” when I feel a final “a-ha.”

Another week of small tweaks, fact-checking, parting twangs, and waves of fear about finally letting go of the work, and then it’s off to the editor on the way to publication.

So basically, sometimes I’m all glamorous like this:

Joan Crawford, with glam typewriter.

Joan Crawford + fountain pen + typewriter

But mostly I’m like these guys:


I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I have more to say about my writing process and writing-as-activism over on the Hedgebrook website, right here.

Step 3: Say who is on the week after you are (your chosen two writers). Give a one-sentence bio of each and link to their websites. There’s a #mywritingprocess Twitter tag you can use, as well as linking to your blog post from your Facebook page.

#1) Kristy Lin Billuni, the Sexy Grammarian, is going to have something hot to say about this next week! #2) Oops! I failed to recruit a second blogger. So if you’re a writer and have a blog, please consider yourself tagged!  Post your answers on your own blog next Monday and spread the fun.

L-bracket-greenR-bracket-greenNeed a fairy godmother for your own writing process? Check out what I can do for you, and then schedule a free 30-minute consultation. Email me with a bit about your needs, and some good times/dates to talk.


A sampling of other posts in the #MyWritingProcess tour:

Tayari Jones. “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.”

Tananarive Due. “Sometimes it’s less horrifying to imagine a supernatural entity at work than it is to reflect on our casual human monstrosity.  Demons make more sense of the nightly news.”

Serena Lin: Drunken Whispers. “I’d like to gather up my courage to submit to literary journals. I tried to post WANTED: COURAGE TO SUBMIT posters in Prospect Park. The drum circle distracted me…”

Safia Jama: A Poet’s Notebook in Progress. “Clearly, the ladybug and I were both working within the same genre—that of sitting on a bench near the Hudson River—yet our work differed vastly.”

Lindsey Mead: A Design So Vast. “The reason I write: so I don’t miss my life…”

Stacie Evans: Process of Elimination. “I like writing challenges. Each year, starting in 2009, I’ve chosen one form and written that each day for the whole [National Poetry] month: tanka, rhyme royal, nove otto, zeno, arun…”

Alejna: Collecting Tokens. “I will assemble previously constructed chunks of my research and stitch them together … then infuse this mass with my sweat, tears and lifeblood. Finally, I will run large currents of electricity through the resulting body of work in hopes that it will take on life…”

Sarah Piazza: Splitting Infinitives. “It is an itch I have to scratch; it is a young child tugging ever more frantically on my sleeve…”

Pamela Hunt Cloyd: Walking on My Hands. “I write about military life from a slightly different vantage point, as I am much older than the typical military wife and I married my husband despite the fact that I used to believe that most people in the military were violent, right-wing, rednecks.”

Dana Talusani: The Kitchen Witch. “Freelancing requires a bravery that I’m not sure I have…”

Shannon Duffy: Deepest Worth. “My best writing comes quickly and leaves me drained and a little high…”

Elizabeth Marro. “I have found that the finish line is where I must be my most patient, my most humble. I’m never done when I think I am.”

Lisa Hsia: Satsuma Bug. “I create to capture a particular something that will no longer be available later in time: a flower, a human (or feline, or canine) individual at a given moment, an emotion, a frustration, a conversation…”

Celestine Nudana: Reading Pleasure/My Journey with Words. “In my country incest is a taboo subject … I’ve always stood up for the downtrodden and marginalized.”

Tish Farrell: Taking the Slow Road/Tarrying Not Typing. “As you talk, the remedies to stuckness will likely pop out of your mouth. Listen out for them. A passive listening post is thus an essential aid. Your dog, cat or canary would be a good choice.”

Vashti Quiroz-Vega. “I’m a pantster when it comes to short stories. I get an idea in my head, and I run with it until it arrives at whatever end.”

Cynthia Manick: Poetry Is What Makes the Invisible Appear. “I write like a convict. I’m scurrying with torn pieces of paper, words are scribbled in horrible handwriting, and I’m trying to capture something?”

Daniel José Older. “Urban Fantasy has, in its mass-market published form anyway, been a very white genre, and I write work that actively degentrifies it. Of course, people of color have always told amazing, fantastical stories about The City…”

Rebekkah Ford: The Musing Writer. “Vampires and werewolves are cool but what about a new mythology?”

Bianca Sloane. “I needed her to tell me how off base it was before I put on my surgical scrubs and took a scalpel to it. I’m finally falling in love with it, which is a wonderful feeling.”

M.L. LeGette: By Candlelight. “My eight year old heart would sing when it saw a bookmark or poster with a dragon or unicorn on it.”

Kuukua Yomekpe: Being a Writer with a Bipolar Brain. “There’s nothing like the feel of paper gently rubbing the first third of my pinkie as it does a waltz across the page…”

Loads more links via Twitter: #MyWritingProcess.