When my friend + long time student, Lisa Sadikman asked me if I wanted to participate in a blog hop where writers get a chance to write about their writing process I said sure, then immediately regretted it because I had just promised myself that I wouldn’t say yes to anything more until I’d completed the pile of projects on my desk.
But if I’m anything, I’m a girl who stands by her commitments — which isn’t always smart, but in terms of commitments, writing is probably the best thing you could say yes to because everyone knows that those deadlines are everything to getting ink onto the page. So thank you Lisa. Below are my answers to the four questions traveling from blog to blog. Next week, two wonderful friends of mine and writers — Sherry Richert Belul and Jill Salahub will share their thoughts on writing via their blogs.
What am I working on/writing?
Most of my writing these days happens in the Wild Writing classes I teach each week here in the Bay Area. For two hours, five mornings a week, I have the pleasure of sitting around a table with 8 other women writing really quickly and really badly. That’s one of the tenants of the class — to write as poorly as possible. It’s not a joke — it’s a totally freeing way of getting past our ingrained attempts at looking good, smart and clever — which is pretty much what we’re trying to do most of the time — on the page and off. It’s unconscious, a throw-back from the days when it was dance or be eaten. So what I teach is the antidote to that; a messy, beautiful, lay-it-on-the-line, show up in curlers with a cigarette dangling, haven’t washed in days, kids nipping at your heels writing practice. It’s healing for two reasons; One, because it’s a break from all that damn trying, and two, because beautiful writing comes when we’re relaxed and natural and trusting our own voice. Wild Writing is my practice, and the foundation for everything I write — which these days means blog posts and content for some of my online classes.
How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
So the thing about teaching writing for a living and doing it under my own roof is that I also have to sell myself + my classes in order to put bread on the table for the children. The Selling Season happens all year round. And while I have a fair amount of Rah! Rah! – the energy you need to wave your arms and set off little pop rockets alerting people that you’ve got something they might want to check out – it can also be exhausting and feel offensive at times. I really just want to write and teach, but if people don’t know I’m here then it’s beans and rice for months. So instead of the big sales pitch where I have to talk people into why this is beautiful work, I choose to blog, to write stories about writing, about my life and what triggers, troubles and inspires me.
My aim is to model the kind of writing I teach, essentially saying to people, if you’re drawn to my writing perhaps you’d like to work with me, perhaps you’d like to learn how to write your own stories.
Why do I write what I do?
I write about things that are current in my life — that have currency and are moving through me. I also try to put some skin in the game and reveal a fairly personal side of myself. When you’re honest, people connect with you, and it enables them to feel into themselves and possibly understand something that they hadn’t found words for.
It’s fun when you’re in a cheery mood and things are going well, but when life is delivering stuff that is hard to be with; your marriage has ended, your oldest has hit the road for college and is texting you pictures of last night’s vomit after 6 shots of vodka, your 16-year-old cries every day after high school because she hates it, you weigh ten pounds more this year than you did last year and a new kind of loneliness has settled into your life… When you find yourself downloading a show called Revenge, which details the lives of the young and rich in the Hamptons — a mythical place where no one has a job, where in each episode someone is getting shot or making out with someone’s husband, where the girls are well dressed and skinny — and there you are in your dark bed knowing you should be thinking better thoughts, or working on yourself; mediating, reading. Jesus, you have students, people look up to you — you are a mentor to many women who respect and admire you and now you’re watching a bloody show called Revenge night after night, and be honest, you love it — it’s a reward for making it though another day.
When that’s what my life looks like, then writing about it on my blog can get tricky. I’m like, holy hell, really? I have to write about this? Then I have to find that place where I’m okay enough — have accepted myself enough to peel back the curtain and…write about Revenge — or what it feels like to feel flat or alone. I’m a seeker, I use the material in my life to try to understand what I’m doing here and what it all means.
How does my writing process work?
I write best in the morning before I’ve assembled myself and before my brain is working. This is a chance to write instinctively, to roll gently from the land of my dreams and to bring some of that subconscious playfulness onto the page. Maybe I’ve woken up with a thought, or there’s a theme running through my week, so I make notes, even if they don’t make sense. I write as much as I can, again, really badly. Then I step away and do something else. The story is still alive inside of me, still getting sorted out, and even if I’m not writing, a part of me is still chewing on it subconsciously.
Later that day I come back and read it over and add more. If I’m driving and I have an insight into the piece I’ll pull out my iPhone and tape my thoughts. Later I’ll lay down more lines and walk away again. It’s back and forth for days, letting something brew in me until I feel like I’ve landed what I mean to say and I’ve said it as well as I could.
It always starts messy for me and I’ll have stops and starts that don’t feel like they’re going anywhere, but if I’ve learned anything from years and years of teaching myself to write badly it’s that I know that if I stick with it I’ll get it right eventually. I see so many people quit a piece of writing because it’s a mess and that means they’re a terrible writer and they should just hang it up. What I’ve learned over all of these years is that being uncomfortable or not liking what I’ve written is not a problem. I expect that.
Learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable is what it’s all about. This is what I teach and this is what has kept me writing all these years.
Now let me introduce you to my fellow blog hoppers:
Lisa Sadikman (www.flingome.com/about) is a writer living in Northern California with her husband, dog and three daughters, the third one arriving just as she began dreaming of a life beyond motherhood. Instead, it’s déjà vu all over again except this time she’s wearing heels and blogging about it. Now a stay-at-home mom, she’s also worked as an ice cream scooper, a department store clerk, a congressional staffer, a mortgage trader, a reporter, an editor and a content and user interface strategist. Drawn to the power of telling true stories, Lisa writes to find balance, make sense of her world and carve out a safe space to sort through the chaos. A lifetime writer with a Master of Journalism, she blogs at the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-sadikman/) and on her own blog, Flingo (flingome.com). Her work has appeared in Salon, Babble, Literary Mama, The Sun and The Monthly, among others. You can read about her adventures navigating love, motherhood and a grown-up life at Flingo (flingome.com) and by following her on Twitter @LisaSadikman (www.twitter.com/LisaSadikman).