My writing process blog tour
My Writing Process Blog Post
Gracious gifted rhythmic poet Ruth Thompson, a woman in touch with earth and spirit ,
who makes poems out of her body, poems out of the world she lives in, she invited me to
join this process, to participate in thinking about and writing about why I write, and what.
Ruth answered these same questions last week, as did many invited writers.
http://www.ruththompson.net/?p=236 Ruth and I met in 2011 at one of the most beautiful
places on earth: Ghost Ranch, in New Mexico – a peculiar Presbyterian non-resort with
food that isn’t quite food, and more sky than you’ve ever seen in your life. We were both
at AROHO (a room of her own) a bi-annual writing retreat for women where we, because
of the sky, because of the words, because of reasons we will never know, we all
connected in a way that is unusual and lasting. I am not a nature type. I life in a small rent
stabilized apartment in New York City, a place I deeply and totally belong. I do not hike
or long to hike, do not camp or canoe or kayak, have never jogged even once. I climb no
mountains ever. And yet. This is one of those sentences with an And Yet. I completely
and totally fell in love with the space that is Ghost Ranch, the mornings and afternoons,
and then, those evenings, where life became sky.
WHAT I AM WORKING ON
That’s one of those (almost AA) questions. That requires an answer that isn’t entirely
authentic, and begins, the way everyone always does, with these words. Right Now.
Right Now I am WORKING ON something important, something that could be GOOD
or Good Enough, something hopeful or despairing, historical or ahistorical. I am always
working on more than one thing, one inelegant incomplete thing. It’s nearly always
difficult because I’m NEVER SURE I can say what I want, and never sure what I want to
say is really and truly relevant or interesting or good enough. It’s Usually a novel (in
fact I have been working on an impossible interminable novel for too many years to tell
you about, a novel about places, about love, about middle age, about social classes that
define life choices as absolute ideology, artisanal bread versus packaged white, about the
illusions we all have, illusions that of course fall apart. My illusions fall apart, not in a
Shakespearean way, but in the small daily life way of personal betrayal.The novel is
called Middlefield, like Middlemarch, but not. Middlemarch is a novel I’ve read many
times. I’m working on a book of poems that are sort of prayers, maybe called I’m getting
older. And I am always always working on stories. Telling stories, writing them, seeking
them out wherever I go. I don’t work in a linear way. My words come out in more of a
circle. Most of the time they emerge as Just Words but every once in a while, maybe
every one hundred sentences, or one thousand sentences, who can tell, I actually say
something that is real and true, that comes from someplace deep and unexpected, that is
not trying too hard to be anything at all, thatbreathes and shouts and most importantly,
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS ?
I wish I could say that my sentences are nothing like any sentences you’ve ever read.
(Have you read many of those? Except for Jeannette Winterson? Can you read
a whole book by Jeannette Winterson? As wonderful as her sentences are.)
My work is the same and different from everyone else. That is, I don’t have a genre
really unless it is Funnyish Secular New Yorki Jewish Getting Older Woman. I am not
an expert. I do not have a field like Jews or Women or Sociology. I am a person
who loves words and writing, but I do not have a crossword puzzle vocabulary. I don’t
win games, and don’t have any particular amazing skills. I love words, and love to write
almost everything. I even like writing lists on a piece of paper, like how the words look (I
write everything by hand. Maybe my handwriting is my genre. I carve letters, and they go
from inside me to outside. I don’t know what I mean by that.) Once when I was young
and much moreI’m sorry to say pretentious I said I was a word painter.
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?
What I write is anything that connects my heart with my hand. That is, I try hard to
hear and feel and see and sometimes understand (though understanding isn’t as important
as feeling) the rich complicated funny incomprehensible lives that exist around me,
everywhere. I am always always looking, and listening.
One of my biggest loves (that is, my biggest equivalent love up there other big loves) is
stories. Good stories. Not so so stories where you think to yourself I Wish This
Were Over but stories that could last forever. My Rumanian grandmother, Anna Sorocor
was my narrative role model. She would arrive from California to visit us for a week and
she would start a story especially for me, usually featuring the life of a relative. Aunt
Tillie being one of my perennial favorites when she got off the plane and that story had
so many amazing daily details (her outfits, her love life, her lack of love life, her two
daughters who had disasters and victories). I could never get enough, and the story would
progress through her entire visit. Over the course of my lifetime I have heard so many
incredible stories, and I write to tell these stories for you.
I write poems, novels, stories, essays. I write any way I can. When I am lucky, I write
what is deep and true.
HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?
And the other part of this question, How does my writing process not work?
I write when I sit down with my red or grey or black notebook, or when I sit down with
my computer, or whenever I finally sit down, because I am a wanderer more than a sitter.
The place doesn’t much matter to me. I am not place sensitive. I can write on a bench or
in a restaurant, a diner or a train or a bus. I can write at my desk. I have a desk,
a real desk, cluttered with paraphernalia that I like to refer to as evocative objects but
those are large words for the peculiar pens and talismans that accompany me there. I do
not do anything the same time every day.
PASSING THE TORCH, OR WHO IS NEXT
Well one way I have been Very Very Lucky is in the people I’ve met on my path. So
many people. Some I’d like to see every day, including these four writers.
Breena Clarke and I met in New Mexico at AROHO. We were both unusual in the
New Mexico landscape. Breena was smart enough to make coffee in her room. I was not.
She is a large writer, gifted and complex. She takes on large historical subjects, in her
Three historical novels. ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE is her new book, out in
July, about an imagined mixed-race community in 19th century New Jersey. It’s amazing.
Dania Rajendra is a person you would like to drink Scotch with, or anything else,
as often as possible. We are both labor movement activists. She says about herself that
she crafts social justice strategy by day and dinner, dessert, and literary offerings. She is a
HinJew (Hindu Jew) and native New Yorker, but she’s lived everywhere. Dania now
lives in Brooklyn, and works with worker justice movements and creative nonfiction, but
she is often visiting other places, movements, and genres. www.daniarajendra.net
Susan Merson and I met this year at the flea market across from my apartment. It was one
of those real and instant friendships. She’s a master teacher of the creative process, a
successful actress and director. She’s actually bicoastal. She’s the founder and producing
artistic director of New York Theater Intensives, and she teaches writing at Cal State. She
writes plays and books, and helps others do the same. http://susanmerson.com/bio.htm
Joanna Herman and I have been good friends for many years. A master teacher of
literature and writing, Joanna knows, in a real and unusual way, how to live. I asked
her to join this blog so everyone would know about her wonderful new book of stories,
NO LONGER AND NOT YET, stories about the lives that Joanna deeply understands.
She’s an Italian American woman for whom the art forms of reading, writing and
teaching are just as important as cooking, eating and drinking good wine.