My Writing Process

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I was surprised, delighted, and flattered when Jamie Krug from Our Stroke of Luck asked me to participate in a blog tour about a writer’s process.  I first met Jamie, both online and soon thereafter in person, last summer, and I’ve loved getting to know her world through her thoughtful, thought-provoking, and lucid writing.  I can’t wait to read her book.

 

Without further ado, I’m happy to answer questions about my writing process.  (disclosure: writing about my ‘writing process’ feels uncomfortable, even artificial, since I don’t really consider myself a writer at all).

What am I working on?

Mostly, on this blog.  I have over the last several years worked on a couple of book-length projects, both memoirs, and for various reasons have abandoned them both.  One memoir was tentatively titled A Country Without Maps and focused on what it felt like for someone who had always navigated her life according to externally-validated achievement and the next hardest thing to come to a place in the road where there was no next thing.  It was about learning to hear my own internal voice and figuring out what I really actually wanted.  It was about learning to live right now, instead of someday.  The second memoir was titled Wonder Girls and was about parenting a tween.  It was an intimate look at the process of letting go that begins, of course, when we have our children and which ramps up steeply in adolescence.

 

I have also written about half of a novel, to which I return sporadically.  The novel has a title too but I’m keeping that one close to the vest.  I can’t get the characters of that novel out of my head, even years after beginning it, which I suspect means I should give them more time.

 

From time to time I write essays, and I love that form.  Most of all, I’m hugely, eternally indebted to my indefatigable, brilliant, and patient agent, Brettne Bloom, for all of her support, wisdom, and advice.  Someday, I promise to make you proud!

 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

 

Truthfully?  I’m not sure it does.  There are so many writers out there whose work routinely brings me to both tears and laughter, who tug at the very essence of who I am and want to be, and who make me feel less alone.  All of these writers are inspirations to me, and it is my devout wish to write even a fraction as well as they do.

 

Why do I write what I do?

 

The reason I began this blog, and started writing in earnest again at all, is still the reason I write: so I don’t miss my life.  When I started write down the minute details of life with small children at home I realized that doing so allowed me to plumb, probe, and observe so much beauty.  It was as though in holding up a small fragment of a day I noticed the glimmer of its facets for the first time.  It’s a practice I couldn’t stop now even if I wanted to.

I write, therefore, to record, to capture, and to honor, but I also write to understand.  Didion said “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking,” and that is true for me.  The truth is I often sit down at the page – the screen – without really knowing what I am going to say, and when the words flow I begin to explore what it is that I can learn from my experience.

 

How does your writing process work?

 

I wrote about a typical day in my life, including my writing, for Cynthia Newberry Martin’s wonderful How We Spend Our Days series.  I work full time and have two very time- and space-filling children at home, so my writing takes place around the edges of the rest of my life.  I write in gaps in my day if I can, and I often write at night after the children have gone to bed.  I am certain I would benefit enormously from a more formal process.

 

Next week, I’m happy to say that two of my very favorite writers, both of whom I’m privileged to call friends, will be sharing details of their process.

 

Pamela Hunt Cloyd writes at Walking On My Hands.  She doesn’t write that often, but every single time she does I read every single word.  She often makes me both cry and nod my head in ferocious identification.  She has two boys, ages 5 and 8, and writes about being a Navy wife, a yoga instructor, a mother, and a human being struggling to inhabit her own life with grace.

 

Amanda Magee writes about “finding the soft edges in a razor sharp world.”  She has three daughters, ages 5, 7, and 9, and writes often motherhood, nostalgia, and the particular joys and challenges of raising girls.  Amanda describes and evokes the bittersweet pain in parenting in a way that is almost uncomfortably familiar.

 

I can’t wait to read Pamela and Amanda’s answers to these questions!

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16 Comments

  1. Posted March 31, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    I don’t think you need a more formal process, you have what works for you. I look forward to the right story finding its way from your heart to your keys so that we can read it.

    I’m nervous to participate, but glad to have been asked.

    admin Reply:

    I can’t wait to read your answers and am so glad you are participating.

  2. Posted March 31, 2014 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    I know that this is cliched at this point, but I don’t know how you do it! Writing on the outsides and the in-betweens of our lives takes a kind of passion and commitment that few possess (I suspect I am surely included in that majority). But you do it, and daily, out of a pure and deep love for the craft. All of this shows, it just plain shines through in every word you write. Your ability to dig deep, to capture that emotion and make all of us that read your words feel too – it’s nothing short of a gift that you generously share. I hope you pick back up with one (or all three) of your books at some point – I would hungrily gobble up each word… xoxo

    admin Reply:

    Well, thank you so, so much. What a generous thing to say, though undeserved. xoxox

  3. Posted March 31, 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Both your memoirs sound wonderful! I hope you continue to work on those projects!

    admin Reply:

    Thank you! I think they are mostly doorstops right now, but I tell myself the writing was valuable … xox

  4. Posted March 31, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Thanks for another glimpse into your process. I am always fascinated to see how others do it, and how each person honors the stories that essentially must come through (in written form) in order to feel whole. I’ve got a few stories that just won’t go away in my mind too–whether they end up as short stories or something longer remains to be seen, but I completely understand what you mean about giving the characters more time. Not scrapping the ideas whole hog has afforded me some clarity recently, and I think that’s why I am more focused on writing them than ever before. And your idea for ACWNM? I hope you reconsider–it’s a theme I hear often in my own head. Would love to read your take.

    admin Reply:

    Yes, I totally know what you mean about the stories that won’t go away – I can’t wait to read more of yours! xoxo

  5. Posted March 31, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I love that you write in the spaces. I am very inspired by that – and that you write at night. I seriously hope you will get those memoirs back out!!!

    admin Reply:

    Well, lady, you are one of the three people in the entire world who’s read one of them … xoxo

  6. Posted March 31, 2014 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I was thrilled when Jamie chose you to be next! And, yes, I would love to read both of your memoirs someday, somehow….

    admin Reply:

    I think it’s better to know you don’t have to :) xox

  7. Posted March 31, 2014 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    (As usual) so much of what you’ve written here resonates with me, especially, “When I started write down the minute details of life with small children at home I realized that doing so allowed me to plumb, probe, and observe so much beauty.”

    Many of the poems in the only book I managed to finish and have published were written when my children were babies/toddlers. And I haven’t finished anything since. I was able to get a few glimpses of what writing outside the margins could be (amazing), but I don’t have anything but margins right now. I gave up my “serious” writing not long after becoming a single parent because it brought me so much conflict. I write my blog because I guess I just can’t not write, and I don’t feel the same frustrations with it. Don’t know that I will ever return to something I consider more meaningful, but I haven’t ruled it out. Kind of waiting to see what happens when my kids no longer require daily parenting.

    I guess all of this is to say: I hope you keep going, finished books or no. I think writing is a long game for most of us.

    admin Reply:

    A long game indeed. I love that image. xox

  8. Posted March 31, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Love this series and your particular answers to these questions! xo

    admin Reply:

    Thank you! xox

  9. Posted March 31, 2014 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Glad to read about your process, which, of course, to us (the one doing it), doesn’t feel like a process at all. But when seen with eyes other than our own, a process begins to emerge. I love imagining you tapping out your words, sitting at your desk, listening for the sleeping sounds of G and W drifting up the stairs.

    xo

    admin Reply:

    Oh, thank you. Yes, I listen to the quiet sound of Whit’s lullabye CD drifting from his closed door … makes me cry every night. xox

  10. Posted March 31, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I love all of this, Lindsey. Your writing helps others to also see their lives in all the pain and beauty. Thank you for your words on the page, in whatever form or function they take. And thanks for sharing your process!

    admin Reply:

    Thank YOU – what an incredibly nice thing to say. I appreciate it. xox

  11. Posted March 31, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I have always loved that answer, “So I don’t miss my life.” It’s perfect. It’s how I feel too, but could never have articulated that on my own.

    admin Reply:

    Kindred :) xoxo

  12. Posted March 31, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    It’s wonderful to learn more about your process, Lindsey; as a part-time working mother of two young kids, I am always very curious to hear how other working moms (whom I respect!) find time to write such quality work.

    Thank you also for your comment on my post today! I found both your comment and the original post I linked to to be tremendously validating and inspiring! I love getting glimpses from mothers who are crossing to that other side of the “happy golden years.” Thanks for lighting the way! :)

    admin Reply:

    I loved your post today. xoxox

  13. Posted March 31, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I love how similar some of our answers are, Lindsey. And I am thrilled to know you “write in the spaces” too. Makes me feel a little less like a poseur.

    xoxo

    admin Reply:

    You are NOT a poseur. xoxo

  14. Posted March 31, 2014 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    I so enjoyed reading your responses here. I have long admired your prolific and oh so poignant words. What a wonderful thing that you truly write for yourself and, in the process, touch so many other people with your work and generosity. I feel in many ways like your reflection. I write for others (my motivation) and in doing so, help myself along the way. Thank you for the inspiration to think through these things tonight. Xxoo

    admin Reply:

    What an interesting contrast. I’d love to read your answers. xoxo

  15. Posted April 1, 2014 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    I am loving this flow of writers sharing. The glimpses are amazing. I hope you get your memoirs back out. xo

    admin Reply:

    Thank you. I don’t know … they may have served their purpose. But I want to read YOUR book someday soon!

  16. Posted April 3, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    I really love this series since I am always so curious about how other writers work – and yet, I was rather surprised by your comment that you don’t consider yourself a writer at all.

    Totally and completely shocking, actually, because I absolutely DO consider you a writer, in part because I am an avid reader of your words, and the worlds you create with those words, often beautifully rendered, and carefully considered.

    Perhaps some day you will become traditionally published – those 2 memoirs are very intriguing – but until then, you are still as real as it gets.

    -Dana (another writer who sometimes has trouble calling herself one but is working hard on owning it anyhow)

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