Wednesday, August 6, 2014

2014 Blog Tour - Writing in the Cracks

Nancy Nordenson, a writer friend, invited me to join a blog tour - called The Magical Mystery Tour - about the process of writing, not the Beatles. Not sure the exact meaning, except that writing often feels like someone needs to sprinkle magic on my words or they won't be readable.

Nancy is a respected Medical Writer and essayist, the author of JustThink, Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul, and of the forthcoming Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work andLeisure. Her blog is called Just Thinking where she does her creative writing. To read her answers click on her blog.

I am honored to be asked by Nancy and in a sort of pass-it-on style I'm to tag two more writers who can join the tour and spread the magic. However, I've been so out of touch with other bloggers, they've finally all left me. However, I do know one person who will do a terrific job on this tour and has graciously agreed to join. (Please see more on Jenni below.)
New office in "The House Between." No excuses now.
I often write in the cracks of life - about something as ordinary as weeds, the weeds you try to pull from the sidewalk in your front yard. This is how I answered the questions:

1-What am I working on?
2-How does my work differ from others in its genre?
3-Why do I write what I do?
4-How does my writing process work?

1. What am I working on?
Perhaps answering these questions will inspire me to finish working toward my current deadline.
Right now, this very minute I should be rewriting an essay to be included in a collection coming out later this year called Real Life at Toad Hall. Yesterday, I thought we would need to leave this one out because I began at point A and switched directions so many times without logic or warning it would confuse a gyroscope. I wondered how I could have published it in the first place. It made me feel desperate. I don’t think of killing myself, but I would like to kill something, maybe an earwig. I am three days past my editor’s deadline and it looks like it  will take longer, with at least three more to wrangle.  A break to join this blog tour may be just the thing that helps.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I write memoir and personal essay with an emphasis on narrative. But I have trouble clarifying how it differs from other like writing. Perhaps it’s a self-image issue. My step-dad used to say, “Girl, you’re not half so smart as you think you are.” In a way, I grew up believing some of that and fighting with it. Foundational to all my writing is the issue of faith and spirituality – how it shapes and informs all parts of life. When my memoir The Exact Place was published, I learned there are many who dislike memoir with good reason. They find many of them self-absorbed or insufferably bitter. Somehow, I avoided that while writing about difficult things at the same time. In both memoir and in my personal essays, which for many years have appeared as “Notes From Toad Hall,” I strive for honesty. I especially think that many of us who claim Christianity struggle with letting others see us – flawed and intemperate as we are. So it is important to me that we challenge that image and yet find hope that helps us continue our journey. I don’t think this desire is unique to me. Each writer has a distinct voice that is important to find. Mine doesn’t sound that memorable to me, but at least I recognize it, and will keep practicing the scales and singing the songs, trying to get it right. That’s not a bad thing.

3. Why do I write what I do?
I think it is very connected to what I mentioned already about being honest. Honesty is stronger when it is united with a desire to love others, not just bash them with the truth. Honesty is not just telling every detail about the troubles you have, either. But I guess we know that, don’t we? So, what motivates me is… well, let me go back for an example. When I was newly married, we attended a church and saw mature couples all nicely dressed sitting beside one another in the pew, the husband’s arm around his wife. No one ever, EVER breathed a word about the troubles a couple might face in getting along with one another. I know that was way back in the day and some things are a lot more healthy and open now. I knew the inside of some of these homes, they were not as pretty as they presented. When my young husband and I faced bumps, there was nowhere to go for mentors or models. Sometimes in desperation I yelled at my husband; “I wish I were a guy and I would so beat you up.” Yes, yes, I know. Abuse. I want to write to give people hope that we are not alone, that there are potentially other ways of looking at things. I want people to know there may not be answers, but there is Someone who is not surprised by any of our scheisse and loves us still.

Weeds in the cracks
4. How does my writing process work?
I am pathetic. Writing is the hardest work I do. I often avoid it at all costs, I will be out pulling weeds from the cracks in the sidewalk when I should be writing. I write at the computer, but revise and edit on paper. The internet has infinite ways of destroying my concentration. I shut off email when the burden to write grows heavier than I can bear. It can’t be dinging at me when I’m trying to compose. I stare out the window. Wipe the crumbs off my keyboard. Chew the eraser heads off pencils. Because I live with some physical issues, I need to set the timer to make myself get up and walk around every so often or my muscles freeze. When I face a blockage, I know that to get past it I HAVE to live with it. So I sit and fidget with the piece and tell myself I am not allowed out of my chair for one whole hour. I may do nothing more than shift a comma, but I don’t let myself leave until the time is up. Then I reward myself with a piece of chocolate and a cup of coffee. It is a mystery to me how this can work, but it actually, usually, often, gets me past the wall.

Jenni Simmons, who wears many hats as an editor and writer, is up next. She is editor of Arthouse America Blog, and just recently became general editor for Kalos Press. Jenni is also a seasoned tweeter and instagramer with an eye for beauty found in everyday places.

1 comment:

Cathy Warner said...

Thanks for joining the tour Margie (I'm the one who tagged Nancy). It was nice to virtually meet you. I'm looking forward to reading more of your writing.