Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This Thing They Call Process

I've been a bit obsessed about this thing referred to as the creative process.( Just ask my writing group.) It probably stems from the fact that I haven't been truly engaged in it in a while. I came to that conclusion because the days seem to slip though my fingers without me ever picking up a pen or tapping these keys. But I mull it over, this whole process thing. A lot. So my look on the bright side, the glass is half full new conclusion is that these black holes of non-productivity are actually part of my process. Not a part I necessarily enjoy but a part nonetheless. And this blog which is here to reflect on the creative process- well the black holes between entries tell a story in themselves, don't they? You could assume that I am furiously writing my way through my novel-in-stories when, in fact, I am totally stumped by the first story. And I do mean stumped. (Again, just ask my writing group.) I am trying to write in a third person voice of an eight-year-old girl but also have this objective narrator available for those things that she just isn't able to tell in her own voice. If anyone has any reading suggestions for that I am totally open. The only story I've come across so far is "Bocci" by Renee Manfredi and I am dissecting it line by line.

Another thing that leads to this not writing business is that I do not have to work outside the home. I have been beyond blessed in that regard. I do some freelance graphic design work but for the most part my days are wide open, except for days like this week when my daughter is home sick. I have put this pressure on myself that a real writer with a day wide open like mine will slide effortlessly toward her computer and sit there for a good 5-6 hours writing her novel. I don't know where I got this idea. I have met one writer who claims to do that. I won't mention her by name because I do enjoy her books but still, I think we are allowed to hate her just a bit. But all the other writers I know and have read interviews with, well, that's just not reality. All the blogs I find, they discuss this dark side of writing and I realize that if I am to keep an honest account of my creative life, then I need to disclose this side too. And accept that it is just part of living a creative life.

Received form email rejection from "The Missouri Review" for "Being Franny's Sister"- Kind of disappointing since I have gotten some very encouraging handwritten notes from them in the past and this is my best story to date.

Walter Mosley has a new book coming out on April 3 called "This Year you Write Your Novel"- It looks amazing. There's an excerpt in the current issue of "Poets & Writers." I plan on reading it on our 12 hour road trip to CT over Easter.

Anne Lamott has a new book that came out yesterday. More spiritual essays. Can't wait to read it.

• Send out "Being Franny's Sister" and "Small Gestures of Violence" to five journals each before my writing group meets again on April 22.

• Revise the second story in my collection "Japanese for Butterfly" for April 22.

• Revise and submit piece on mystery for by March 25.

"The first and most important thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do everyday...Some days you may be rewriting, rereading, or just sitting there scrolling back and forth through the text. This is enough to bring you back into the dream of your story. What, you ask, is the dream of a story? This is a mood and a continent of thought below your conscious mind; a place that you get closer to with each foray into the words and worlds of your novel. You may have only spent an hour and a half working on the book, but the rest of the day will be rife with motive moments in your unconsciousness; moments in your mind, which is mulling over the places your words have touched. While you sleep, mountains are moving deep within your psyche. When you wake up and return to the book, you are amazed by the realization that you are farther along than when you left off yesterday. If you skip a day or more between your writing sessions, your mind will drift away from these deep moments of your story. You will find that you'll have to slog back to a place that would have been easily attained if only you wrote everyday."

From Walter Mosely's new book. I printed it out and taped it over my desk.


Anonymous said...

This is a great post, and it looks like you will really be holding yourself accountable. I think that's what we all need as the process ebbs and flows...we need accountability to make sure we are continuing towards goals even when the creative side feels like it could suffocate us. Great goals - can't wait to hear about them in writing group!

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
Came across your blog. For what's it worth, having written 2 novels and a collection of stories, and having worked all sorts of jobs and hour combination during the process, I can tell you this: whether you work banker's hours, or are at home all day, your writing demands the same effort from you. Think of it this way: a child goes through the same developmental stages, rate of growth, whether her mother stays at home with her or works all day at Microsoft. Personally, I simply don't believe someone who claims to write for 5-6 straight hours. You can certainly be in a revisional mode that long, but not a compositional one. The white heat of creativity is about 90 minutes-2 hrs. 3, maybe. MAYBE longer if you have 2 sessions per day. I don't know anyone whe stays in the chair the whole time they're writing. For heaven's sake! Everybody procrastinates. Everybody dilly-dallys. How ELSE would the house get clean, the dogs get walked, and the risotto get stirred? Or blog entries be posted? (I've already walked my dogs).
Hope this is helpful. And thanks for your kind words about my story "Bocci."

Renee Manfredi

Kim Haas said...

Renee- Just in case you drop by here again I want to say how much I appreciate your comments. When I realized that it was from you I squealed with delight and my daughter asked if I had a story published. I said no but that this was just as exciting. What you say makes so much sense. I need to learn to cut myself some occassional slack. Thanks again! And please let me know if and when you are ever teaching a writing workshop or at a conference.