Last week I had my writers’ group over to my house. I was speaking to my uncle before my friends came over and he said I had to wear the present that he and my aunt gave me for my birthday. They gave me an apron. And while that doesn’t really seem like something one would wear to a writers group, because I am a good niece, I did.
You may wonder what one does at a writers’ group, so I will tell you. We drink a lot of wine and talk too much about things that have nothing to do with writing. (So it turns out wearing the apron was a good fit after all.)
Actually we do have an agenda. We chit-chat for about 30 minutes as people are showing up, we have a writing prompt and spend 10 minutes writing whatever that prompt brings to mind, we all read our prompts aloud, then we each have ten minutes to discuss our goals for the next month. We can also send over a piece we’ve been working on before the meeting for feedback. If we were orderly this would all take about two hours. It usually takes four. (Mostly due to the drinking and talking too much about non-writerly things.)
I was in charge of the prompt (which can be a word or a phrase or even a question) and I chose “things that are bad for you.” The great thing about writing prompts is the varied responses from everyone. I love to hear my clever and creative friends read their prompts aloud.
Kim did not like my prompt. She started to write a story that was very similar the piece she’d emailed earlier in the day for feedback, but she felt that story had already been told, so she crossed it out and just made a list. I thought her list was fantastic as it wasn’t really a list of things that are bad for “you,” (as in everyone), but rather things that were bad for her.
And with 2014 officially half over, on this 19th day of my 49th year, the year I am trying to make productive, trying to make count, trying to make matter, it inspired me to make a list of my own. Because I want to stop doing things that are bad for me. And I have always found that things are so much easier to achieve when I have a list.
Things that are bad for me
Staying up late
Time-sucking activities (Candy Crush I’m talking to you!)
A third glass of wine. (Not that I ever have that!)
A second cup of coffee
Forgetting what the words “portion control” mean (What do they mean again?)
Not working out
Not making lists
Chandler being gone for 5 1/2 weeks (though this is very good for Chandler)
Lack of motivation
Being lazy (especially when my laziness becomes blazy, which is a term my writer’s group came up with that means being blasé about your laziness. We’d campaign to get the word into next year’s Merriam Webster, but that would take way too much effort, thus being the exact opposite of blazy.)
Excuses (see above)
I could probably go on and think of 20 things that are bad for me instead of only 19, but I’m blazy remember?. Besides, I feel myself bordering on negativity. And that’s not my style. Perhaps I will counteract this post with a post listing things that are good for me. (Like Bradley Cooper obviously.)
Oh, and my kids, of course.
But as I said, another post.
I’d love to know… what are some things that are bad for you?
Well, Kim asked anyway. And since I want to be a writer like Kim when I grow up (you know, one who actually gets paid to do it – on a regular basis), when Kim asks, I answer.
She invited me to participate in a blog tour called My Writing Process (#mywritingprocess). My Writing Process is apparently a way to connect with other bloggers who identify themselves as writers. Yes, all bloggers write, but that doesn’t necessarily make them writers. (One look at Pinterest will tell you that.) I do not say that with any sort of snobbery or contempt (I mean, come on, what I write is certainly not literature), but to say people blog for different reasons. Some blog to show off their DIY prowess, some blog recipes, some blog simply to make money, and some of us, we blog to write. I blog to write.
So now I have to answer some questions and then pay this task privilege forward to three more writers who have blogs.
1. Why do I write what I do?
I walk around all day with a lot of chatter in my head. When I’m driving to work, when I’m running, when I’m fixing dinner my head is filled with incredibly clever and funny things to write. Things I must write. Of course then I sit down to write them and they escape me. What was that brilliantly funny thing I conjured up in the car on the way to work? I’ll think to myself. And I can’t remember. Or worse I do remember and once I type it out I see it wasn’t very brilliant at all. It’s torturous. (And trust me when I say that all writers are tortured.) But every once in a while that thing does work on paper (or the screen) and it’s clever and funny and brilliant (okay, I’ve never actually been brilliant) and that makes the torture almost worth it.
Also, I talk a lot (a lot) so I guess writing is just another way for me to keep talking when no one is around. I’m kidding. (A little.) I think writing is a way of connecting with people. There are so many times I read things and think to myself, “Yeah, I feel that way too,” so I hope what I have to say (or rather what I write) resonates with people. That they read my words and think, “Yeah, I feel that way too.”
Plus if you want to know the dirty truth, I like people to tell me I’m awesome. But people don’t tend to walk up to me and say, “Hey Charlene, I think you’re awesome.” But they do sometimes walk up to me and say, “You’re blog post was so funny.” Which is sort of the same thing.
So I guess I write what I do to quiet the voices in my head, to connect with people, and to fulfill my sad and desperate need for approval. And to torture myself. (And feel awesome.)
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Do I have a genre? I don’t consider myself a “Mommy Blogger” because I rarely write about my kids these days. At 17 and 13, I feel I don’t have the right to tell their story anymore. (Though every once in a while I can’t help myself.) So whatever my genre is – personal essay, lifestyle, or as I like to call it – “slice-of-life,” I guess what makes my work different is that they’re my stories to tell. The crazy chatter from my brain. Of course that makes everyone’s work different doesn’t it? I suppose others are much better at getting to the point. I’ve always admired others who can say a lot with very few words, where as I tend to do the opposite, which is saying very little with as many words as possible. (For example I could have cut the last eleven words out of the previous sentence and it would have had the same meaning, but I justcan’t! And this post? Waaaay too long. Sorry about that!)
3. How does your writing process work?
I get up early – 5:00 almost every day (yes, even weekends) to write. The plan is to pour a cup of coffee sit down in the quiet calm of my house and write. I don’t have an office, so I sit with my laptop at the kitchen table in my daughter’s spot. I don’t know why I always choose her chair over my own. Maybe because it looks out into the backyard. I open the curtains and watch the night turn to day as I tap away at my keyboard. Or sometimes I will write in a notebook – three pages, for those of you familiar with “morning pages.” I wrote the first draft book that way – pen to paper in the wee morning hours. Well, that is ideally how my writing process works – early, alone, in the dark.
Lately it is something much closer to what happened today. It’s Saturday as I start to write this and I’ve gone to bed late every night this week so I allowed myself to “sleep in” until about 6:15 this morning. I planned to walk the dog at 7:00 and go for a three mile run at 8:00, so I knew I wouldn’t have much time, but I wanted to get a few thoughts out. Then I went on TimeSuck – I mean Facebook, so no writing took place – unless you call commenting on the triumphs and tragedies and (mostly) minutiae of my friends’ lives and informing them about the triumphs and tragedies and (mostly) minutiae of mine writing.
After the Facebooking and the dog walking and the running I woke Marley up and made her breakfast and then took her to an event at school. I was home a little before 10:00 and Chandler and Dave had left for the day, but instead of coming back to write immediately I rolled on my foam roller to work out the kinks from running, took a shower (well, after the running that was fairly necessary), threw a load of laundry in the washer, stripped my bed (but decided I’d put my clean sheets on later), cried my eyes out as I read the article in the Times about that horrific bus crash carrying college-bound high school students to Humbolt, and then threw the load in the dryer (after taking the time to hang my gym clothes and delicates), and then finally sat down to write this post. I typed two sentences and the phone rang. It was Marley, ready to be picked up.
I picked her up, took her to the library, went to Trader Joes’s for necessities (milk and wine), came home, had lunch, and then went to her lacrosse game. (Marley was goalie, her team won, it was awesome!) We returned at 3:30, I put clean sheets on my bed, stopped myself from taking the time to do the pillow cases, and sat down to write.
Oh, I didn’t finish of course. I only had about half an hour before I had to do other things. So I got up at 5:00 Sunday morning and wrote some more (like I was supposed to – alone and in the dark). And now I’m finishing this early Monday.
So I guess you could say my process is to get up early under the guise of writing and then avoid writing as much as possible until I can’t avoid it any longer. I don’t know why I procrastinate. I think is has something to do with the torture. Or maybe so I can convince myself that my writing sucks because I “don’t have time” to do it properly.
4. What am I working on?
Hmmm… other than avoidance? Good question.
Another rejection letter, that was fairly constructive rather than the standard “it’s not you, it’s us, but really it’s you because your writing sucks” form letter, is forcing me to look at my novel again. What can I take out without losing my voice? How can I punch it up? Make it funnier? Make you want to read more. I’m actually considering changing my beloved first line -my hook- which I’ve held onto as if my life depended on it. But perhaps the life of my book depends on me letting it go.
And I recently wrote a piece for Listen to Your Mother that got rejected. Which is fine, really. (Though it does make me bitter petty enough to not give them a link.) There were only 12 spots available and I think that at least 14 people auditioned, so you know, odds were against me. In all seriousness, unlike the poorly edited drivel I usually post here, it’s a kick-ass piece that has a place somewhere, so I need to shop it.
And of course I try to post here every Monday, but as I’ve stated, the chatter in my head often doesn’t translate to my fingers.
Okay, are we done with this? Now that I’ve bored you all to tears if you’ve even made it this far (which I suspect most people haven’t – I probably wouldn’t) and you no longer like me because you’ve figured out how weird I am?
Anyway, now is the part where I pick three people to keep this tour moving. Picking only three people is very hard. Picking three people who will actually do it (and not murder me) is even harder, but here are my three:
Tina Drakakis – my soul mate from skirt.com. Yeah, I always pick her for things. Because she is kick ass and awesome and 1,000 times funnier than me, which makes me really want to hate her, but I can’t because I love her too much. Plus she’s been posting a lot to her blog lately, but I haven’t seen much that is new, so I’m giving her a kick in the butt to get back at it. She loves it when I do that. (Or maybe not.)
Rina Nedar – her blog, Mommy Has a Story, is quite lovely. You should read it. And her fiction is even better. Plus she started the writing group I’m currently in that makes me set goals and keeps me accountable, which quite frankly, I find a little bossy, so now I’m going to make her do something. (So ha ha Rina!)
Abby Byrd – her blog Little Miss Perfect is hilarious. She says fuck a lot, calls her two-year-old an asshole, and isn’t afraid to piss people off. I would like to say the F-word more (like I do in real life), but people have told me they don’t like it, and I don’t like to piss people off (except for the three people I just named, obviously) so I don’t use it as much as I’d like to in my blog. And as I stated above, my kids are older now, so I can’t call them assholes. Oh, and Abby uses a pen name for her blog, but one day when her memoir is published (and it’s great, so it will be), you will know her real name, trust me on that.
Get to work ladies – you have one week to expose your soul to the internet. But hey, you’re writers. You’re used to that.
(And for those of you who stuck with this entirely-too long post, I really do thank you.)