“Just as a good rain clears the air, a good writing day clears the psyche.” ― Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life
I saw this blog tour idea a few weeks ago, and thought it might be fun to explore the questions it poses, as well as interact with you, dear readers. Writing is an intensely personal pursuit. It is one that most of us approach gingerly. We may not know why we write; instead we feel driven by a kind of electrified need to do it. We must write. We don’t have a choice.
We need words. We need them like we need air and water and food.
Living the Questions
1. What are you working on?
I’m working on a collection of poems and a spiritual memoir right now. There are other things, but they are on the ‘back burner,’ so to speak. They’re cooling their jets on a stack of things I want to write when I’ve finished what I’m working on now. As for details, I am superstitious about sharing too much. Anyone who reads my blog knows my writing and can surmise what might interest me. I am fascinated by the soft underbelly of life. By love, vulnerability, loss, joy. I like to explore the mystery of our lives and our choices.
Oh, and I believe in angels, miracles, spontaneous healings, and other invisible (but true) things.
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
My work is my work. There are plenty of others doing the kind of writing (spiritual memoir) I do, but not in exactly the same way. My strength is my lyrical voice as a prose writer, my sense of how things work as an empath and a long practicing Buddhist, and my talent for going deep and surfacing with all that slimy, dark crap no one wants to actually acknowledge exists. However, if we never visit our darkness, we will never actually live in the light. We’ll always be looking over our shoulders, wondering what is stalking us.
“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows. And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.” ― George R.R. Martin
3. Why do you write what you do?
I write to discover what I know, like Flanney O’Connor says [in the above quote]. I write to sort out my confusions. I write to find the clear water of life that exists when we flush out the inner nooks and crannies. I am interested in what makes things tick, why things are as they are, and what spiritual roots exist under most of the problems in the world.
I am fascinated by nature and its ability to intuitively discern the right choice.
I write what I write because, as it turns out, it is a completely natural extension of who I am.
Also, I write what I like to read. Don’t we all do that? Whatever particular genre or branch that most attracts you, does so for a reason. You have something to add to that conversation.
“No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.” ― Erin Bow
4. What is your writing process?
I love what I’ve heard called ‘vomit drafts.’ None of this farting around waiting for inspiration. No. Just write.
Even if what I write is total shit, the act of writing is clearing the way for something behind it.
Drafting is sort of like plowing the roads after a snow storm. You get in your big ass truck and you plow. You salt the road and get it cleaned up. Then you’re ready to get somewhere.
I don’t subscribe to the notion that I must have a particular kind of music playing or sit in a particular coffee house in order to write. In fact, unlike many people I know, I need total silence to write.
I prefer using my home office. Everything’s better there: the coffee, the quality of the light, the way my feet feel on the floor. Although I’ve done some writing in hotel rooms and airports, I don’t recommend it.
I draft until I say what I want to, then I edit. Usually around 20+ times – even for a short piece like this. I don’t edit as I write because that muddies the process. You get tangled up in making one sentence or phrase right before you actually know if you are even going to keep that sentence or phrase. Totally pointless.
My advice is to do a brain dump; then, sort, arrange, tweak, cull, edit, proofread, and polish.
And write a lot. Write every day. Write on scraps of paper in your purse. Write on receipts. Carry around little notebooks and jot things down. You never know what might float up from the depths at any moment.
Little ideas can bloom big.
Feel free to share your process in the comments section. I’d love to hear other ideas and approaches.
© 2014 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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