This post is part of the #mywritingprocess blog tour. Big thanks to Krista at Sleepy Hollow Ink for asking me to be a part of it. I met Krista last month at Rivertown Artists Workshop's screening of the documentary, Lost In Living, about navigating life as both an artist and mother. You just know you’re going to encounter fabulous, interesting women at an event like that! Check out Krista’s beautiful answers to the writing process questions in her own post, How, Why, What Do I Write.
So here we go, the questions:
What am I working on?
Currently I am in the midst of writing:
:: a long blog post on what I’ve discovered about encouraging children’s creativity through the artist-in-residence teaching I’ve been doing this year in a local elementary school
:: another post about ease and whether struggle is necessary to a woman’s creative life
:: a written description to accompany a mural design that I’m submitting to an urban art competition in my city
:: a bunch of invitations to local cool women I know – or know of – to come be our speaker at Random Retreat.
How does my work differ from others in my genre?
This is a hard one to answer. A big part of my creative reclaiming process has been to stop pursuing uniqueness as a main goal. I am happy to belong to my current moment and drink in at least some of the same inspiration as other bloggers and artists out there. If we end up with overlaps in what we produce as a result, that’s ok with me. My work is still mine. And the dog-chasing-its-tail futility of trying to be different from anyone else does not a productive artist make. When it comes to writing, all I can do is make sure my work authentically represents me, both in content and voice. But I assume and in fact hope that there are other bloggers, creativity coaches and workshop leaders out there making points and offering thoughts that are similar to mine. How else will we ever change what's possible?
Why do I write what I do?
When I started writing this blog, it was to chronicle the halting little steps I was taking toward strengthening my creativity within a life that orbited around my babies. Over the years, as both my children and my creative goals have grown, the point of the blog has evolved. Now I write this blog more in service of advancing a larger conversation around what it takes to reclaim a wild, creative, self-determined life, particularly for women and especially mothers. I enjoy the craft of putting words to my ideas, and treasure getting to share them with a wider audience than just my husband at the kitchen table. Something magical happened in my life when I started this blog and announced that my creative life was important to me, and while the content has changed over time, that magic has remained consistent. It doesn’t seem to matter whether lots of people are reading or commenting, or even whether I stop posting for months at a time. Just HAVING True North means that I am on the playing field and inviting in opportunities to paint murals and teach classes, to see myself as bigger than the housefrau I had once relegated myself to being and hopefully to remind you that you are bigger than that, too. That is why I write it.
How does my writing process work?
I birth blog posts with varied gestation periods – sometimes there’s a flash of inspiration and I can bang out an idea, shape it, and press publish in one sitting. More often, I’ve been thinking about something for a while (a few weeks or even months), taking notes and collecting ideas, and it builds in force and momentum until I have to say no to some other obligation and work on it. HAVE to. Sometimes, even at that point, it will feel like something’s missing and I’ll hold off publishing until, usually in the next few days, I’ll have a serendipitous conversation or read a passage in a book that solves the puzzle of whatever I was trying to say. And then I'll send it out into the world.
I wish I could say that I work at the same time, in the same chair, every day, in some non-negotiable writing date with myself, but I don't. Maybe someday. The process is a process! In the meantime, I write when I can. I write when I do. I let it have its own pace. I give myself permission to be inconsistent (something I wrote about in my Slow Blogging post). The only common links are that I write when my kids are at school, as my brain can’t maintain a single sentence-producing thought when the girls are swirling around, and I always write with a cup of coffee or tea, as the comfort of the hot drink seems to help plant my butt in the chair. I try hard to intuit when the “I don’t want to do this anymore” feeling that inevitably arises at some point is just resistance that needs to be pushed through, versus when it is actual burn out that needs to be honored by taking a break. That's the key to parenting, isn't it? Even parenting ourselves: to know when to encourage or push, and when to back the hell off. In general, I'm committed to parenting myself very, very kindly whenever possible, and that definitely includes when I'm writing.
Oh, and drafts. Even with a small blog post, it's all about editing. Not necessarily checking for typos or grammar mistakes, you understand—it’s so much more important to me that the blog be in my voice, literally the way I speak, than that it be technically correct. Rather, I edit for the creativity-protecting purpose of first letting things suck. I am a big fan of Anne Lamott’s Shitty First Drafts advice. (All hail Saint Anne!) I write by way of initial brain dumps followed by lots of shaping. In college I actually was able to write fully formed first drafts, which allowed me to leave everything until the last minute and then produce 30-page papers in one night. But it was just a party trick, and it kept me mediocre. So I don’t do that anymore. First all the thoughts, all of them, then the paring away. I find that there is much more satisfaction this way...
I am passing the #mywritingprocess baton to three other fantastic women bloggers, who will post their own answers next week. On with the tour!...