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My Writing Process Blog Tour

The inimitable Matt Hart asked me to participate in this chain letter self-interview concerning my writing process. Next week, Amy Schreibman Walter will do the same.

1) What are you working on?

I am working on: “An Excel Spreadsheet About My Feelings,” the follow-up to my 2013 work, “A PowerPoint About My Feelings.”

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I am frequently told that my writing voice sounds exactly like my speaking voice, so my work differs from other work of its genre in that it sounds like me and no one else. I could say a lot of things about the creation/projection of a persona, about a version of myself and events that is both a fabrication and yet somehow more true, etc., etc., but I think the most important thing is that I say things that are true, in an original way. Both the reader and I will know if I fail in these respects.

It is also very important to me that my writing be fun to read. I once burned a book I didn’t like, page by page, in the fireplace of a cabin in the foothills of the Sierra Madre. While I was in an altered state at the time, I stand by the act. If you don’t like something you’re reading, you should at least throw it across the room, and probably burn it.

3) Why do you write what you do?

When I was three years old, my mother was giving me a bath. As she stood above me, reaching into a high cabinet for a towel, I came to the realization that my mother couldn’t hear the thoughts inside my head. “MOMMY!” I experimentally thought-screamed. But she didn’t turn around. At that moment, I understood that no one would ever know anything I was thinking if I couldn’t find the words to express it. I felt an anguished loneliness, along with a secret thrill at the discovery of this vast and private space, along with a singular determination to break down the barrier between the two.

4) How does your writing process work?

It begins with coffee and ends with whisky. It involves staring off into the distance, squinting, a fetishistically maintained collection of thirty-five Moleskine notebooks, moleskines

and numerous recordings using the iPhone Voice Memo app, all beginning with the words, “Note to Self.” Lately, I find myself composing fully-formed essays while sitting at belay ledges that slip by with the rope length and are lost forever.

Some shorter things come to me all at once, but most take weeks, months, or years to go from inspirational lightning-bolt to finished form. Some days I open up all the things that are neither born nor dead yet and tinker with them happily. Other days, my own words are inscrutable to me, and I think, “Who wrote this?”

Essays are weird—they’re like intricate math problems. There’s the narrative aspect–the story you have to tell–but then there’s the structure, which is made of ideas and questions. The structure has to be nearly invisible and yet perfectly sound. Another way to look at an essay is as a weaving—each idea or anecdote is a thread, and they all have to tie up in the end. A little fringe is okay, but too much collects crumbs.

Next week:

Amy Schreibman Walter is an American poet and teacher living in London. Her poems have appeared in journals on both sides of the Atlantic in publications including The Milo Review, Metazen, The Good Men Project and The Scapegoat Review. Her debut chapbook, Coney Island and Other Places, is available from Lulu Press. Amy co-edits the online poetry magazine here/there:poetry. Here is her Writing Process Blog Tour.

 

 

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  1. […] the best writers I know. You can read her interview with herself about her writing process here: http://superlefty.com/2014/08/my-writing-process-blog-tour.html. Finally, an interesting and worthwhile kind of chain letter! My interview will go live next […]

  2. […] When I was 21, I met a wonderful writer named Emily Weinstein. I was inspired by the writer that Emily was back then, and I still feel that same way today, all these years later. So when Emily asked me to be a part of a self-interview blog tour chain letter, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. This is my kind of chain letter: a reason to think for a while about the writing process, and to read other writer’s takes on the process, too. You can read Emily’s (very interesting) self interview here: http://superlefty.com/2014/08/my-writing-process-blog-tour.html […]



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