the how and the when, but not the why or the what.

I’ve been catching up in so many ways. Reconnecting with myself, and the world outside the bubble that I live in as a new mom again. Reconnecting with myself as a writer, I find myself questioning how I write. Not in a bad way, not in a can I do this kind of way, but in a how do I do this kind of way.

Most of you know that I write loosely, from the subconscious, without thought to how it is done, only contemplating once I have a draft done, but once in a while I find myself wondering how the whole process works.

Part of my catching up has been in reading your posts, and Linda posted not so long, Come on, let me in!, and Ann responded that post with one of her own.

Part of the connection to myself as a writer comes from connecting to the rest of you and the world. In her post Linda wonders how writers know what the current trend is, and Ann talks about how reading and studying (and being a quick writer!) are part of this answer. For me to be a writer, I need to read, watch tv, see the latest films, and listen to music. I need to see how people move and talk, how they respond to each other. I need to listen to words of the latest releases on the radio. I need to observe the world. Touching base in this way causes your ideas to morph into my ideas.

I have begun reading from all genres, ones I never even considered, just to see how they are done. And I have enjoyed it more than I ever thought I would. (chic lit a prime example for me). I had to release my prejudices, and just read, without judgment. I have been shocked to learn how lyrics can inspire me. How watching the latest shows on tv (glee, vampire diaries – shows I never would have watched once upon a time, and would have been my loss) inspire me.

Thinking of all this is overwhelming – a writer needs to live, keep au courant, and keep our blogs and/or websites up and running (my website is months and months out of date! And did you notice I still have a winter photo as a header?!?!?!), and still find time to write? It is a catch twenty-two with me (does anyone know the origin of this bizarre expression??) because all of this alone is a full-time job leaving me bursting with the desire to write and I wonder…………….when??

I know that, at least for myself, this process is cyclical. There is a moment of connecting, when everything has the potential to be a story. The kitchen moth that I reach in to catch fluttering behind the hanging bath towels, the juice from the lemon dripping in the bowl. Everything. And this happens until one story takes over, (kind of like a weed I suppose), squashing all other thoughts and ideas and needs to be written. Then I withdraw, enter into my story, and live there for a while, leaving all else where it is for me to come back to once the story is told.

For now, as my own writing works itself to another place, I need to write shorts. It is what I do when I question my process of writing, and my hand fumbles on the keyboard while my thoughts are without direction, until I find my footing again, and see I have moved up the mountain just a tiny bit more. When I used to practice martial arts I experienced a similar process when I was learning – one step back, for each one forward (aren’t I full of clichés again today!).

This post is full of the words myself and connect – I felt myself (lol) writing them over and over, but did not stop to bother to find a better of saying things (laziness that I allow myself right now with the new baby – he’s sleeping, and I have to bounce off the couch to get the kids to the pool for their lessons. This laziness has extended through my whole body and I do not see how I can do this! lol) All that daily life stuff aside (or not!) have you noticed a trend in your process of writing and learning and connecting – and how important is this process to you?

And please forgive this lengthy post! Thanks for reading!

23 thoughts on “the how and the when, but not the why or the what.

  1. Jennifer, you will eventually settle back into writing again. The time when your baby is so young will slip by quickly and before you know it you will have more time to spend at your craft. I think sometimes we have to content ourselves with the moment we are in or else find ourselves frustrated an unhappy. Believe me, I’ve been there. Being a new mom is demanding. For me, writing gave back something to me when my children were small. I knew I couldn’t become lost in motherhood only to have to discover who I was once they were grown.

    You are a writer with many more words to write, and you will get to the place where you want to be eventually..

    I sometimes go through phases when I have to step away from writing for awhile and, when I do, I come back to it with a whole new enthusiasm, one I thought might be gone for good.

    1. Thanks Laura! I know this, but a reminder is good once in a while!
      Interesting to me that you think you might not come back as strong as you left writing. Wonder why that is?

      1. Like many writers, I have had times when I’m unhappy with everything I write. This past winter was a prime example. I think in some ways I was feeling pressure from other people’s expectation of “When’s the next one coming out?” I’d heard that so many times and, while it is nice that they’re looking forward to the another one, I also felt pressure to produce something. So I stepped back a bit as I found myself filled with doubt and thinking what if there isn’t an other one. I really did wonder. Stepping back a bit let me see that I had lost focus, had forgotten the reason why I write–because I love to write.. I guess I forgot the “I” in there. Maybe I won’t ever have another published book, but I can’t let that stop me from doing what I really love doing. Hope that makes a bit more sense.

      2. oh yes, Laura, we can all suffer from performance anxiety from time to time. But, as you say, it’s all about us. When writing thinking about others it all goes wrong.

  2. First, I believe it was Joseph Heller who coined the phrase “Catch-22” in the novel of the same name. Where he got it from you’ll have to ask him directly.
    Seriously… (if I can honestly use that word)…
    Some people consider themselves “strcutured writers”—notes, outlines, character bios, etc. Others think of themselves in an almost avant garde/surrealist/exposing themselves to the world and allowing the world to expose itself to them type of writers. There is no right or wrong.
    You are capable of going through a unique experience (i.e. childbirth) which I can NEVER experience. Your spouse has his own feelings. But you as a writer may see things through different eyes.
    I recall, as a youth, writing things that were more adventure oriented. Now I write dark crime and transgressive fiction. The old curmudgeon (though still filled with Hope) wears darker glasses now that the reality of Life has settled in.
    I’ve lost my rose-colored glasses.
    The processes that we used at one point in our lives may no longer benefit us at another point. Our view, our perspective has changed. It almost HAS TO change.
    I do agree with your methodology of absorbing new things that you may not have been open to before. But don’t limit yourself to simply alternatives to modern popular culture. When was the last time you had a picnic? When was the last time you walked barefoot over newly mowed grass or ran out in the rain oblivious to the rest of the world? New experiences are fine; re-exploring old experiences are triumphant as well.
    And, I’ll forgive your lengthy post if you’ll forgive my lengthy response.

    1. Oh how you made me smile reading your comment, tikiman!
      You know, for me pop culture is the new thing. I never related to it, never payed attention, was always out of the loop, so this is new for me. Yes yes yes to walking barefoot in the grass! to just sitting and watching the lake roll. to taking in the sun.
      thank you, tikiman
      and pls, keep your rose coloured glasses on at least partially.

  3. For me, ‘finding the idea’ for a story and then ‘working on that idea’ are two separate things. First one happens spontaneously, it just ‘comes’ to me, when I’m driving, taking a shower or walking the dogs… But after that, it’s all on me. I’m a big fan of outlining, I’d like to buy a few maps, read a few books, take a compass and know about the history before I visit the foreign land.
    That said, some of my writer friends can’t stand to outline, they say the ‘not knowing’ works for them and I can understand that… We all have our different ways 🙂

  4. I don’t see a trend in my writing process, and I’m not even sure I can articulate that process. I also write loosely from the subconscious and develop plot later. I suppose my process is that I’m endlessly fascinated by human nature and I spend a great deal of time observing it … I think that gets absorbed and emerges as I write from the subconscious level.

    (What I wrote appears to make no sense … as I said, difficult to describe, but you did it so well!)

    1. it actually makes perfect sense, Cathryn. Observation is key for me too. Until I begin to write that particular story, then external observation ceases for the time being, and moves inward.

  5. I’m so happy I came across your blog.

    I have found (as you bring up) that writing short pieces helps clarify for a writer an idea or a style that they are unsure about. I don’t mean this in a negative way, of course, I mean writing a 300 or whatever word story is a good way of getting the idea out into the open and seeing how it does. It’s a great way to get a lot of strong bits out quickly, which probably suites the medium currently.

    In my own writing, I very rarely write from the subconscious or ‘loosely’, though I do allow for words to flow in if they feel the need to be where they are. The majority of my writing comes from a single sentence, image, or idea; which is then explored and developed. I refuse to say whether this method is better or worse, as I am of the school that believes anything to keep a writer writing is solid.

    In regards to your reading of other genres: I have started (half as a joke, half as stress relief) to write in genres I’d never expect. For instance, the past few days I’ve been writing a Steampunk-esque serial, which I’m enjoying for the sake of enjoyment. While I don’t think there is a continuing merit in the work itself, it’s nice to see just how the tools and techniques I use now can be applied to other areas of writing.

    Thanks again for such a well thought out post, I look forward to visiting often.

    1. Hi Matthew, and thanks for the great comment!
      I see you post your shorts on your blog – I’ll have to read your august effect from the beginning. It’s intriguing!

      I find the triggers that explode into stories or whole novels can be minute. It’s wonderful! bur some times exhausting!
      thanks, and we look forward to seeing you back!

      1. Thank you, Jessica! I have never done that – wrote from a title. I will try it!

        You also post your work – so much to look forward to reading. fun!

  6. I came here via Lua.
    I liked your blog, I can agree with so much.
    I love just thinking of a title and forcing myself to write something around it.
    If I get really stuck I like to take a well known tale and give it a modern spin, at least I have a basic structure to work around.

  7. Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for sharing on how you write from the subconscious. So crucial. I find plot particularly difficult, but am trying to listen to my subconscious.

  8. The amount of time I have available to write has to determine how I write. If I have very little time each day I don’t have the luxury of being able to write it all out over the space of a few weeks. If I am not writing for several hours every day other things intervene and my subconscious goes off in a million different directions. This means I need a much tighter structure. If I don’t have that structure I forget where I am going and even what I’ve done before. This may not be apparent while I am writing but it will be obvious to a reader who picks up the book for the first time and reads it in two or three days. My writing is much more productive when I have a structure. I like to write around a skeleton of key scenes and key sentences and for the plot to be worked out in detail. I think this gives the reader a more satisfying experience. The books I admire most are the ones where every detail is important and the beginning couldn’t have been written without detailed knowledge of the middle and the end. I once read an interview with Patricia Highsmith where she said something like “Oh, I got stuck in the middle but went for a long walk and came up with an ingenious solution that allowed everything to come together nicely…” I’d just read the book she was talking about (The Glass Cell) and it was a complete mess.

    1. I find this a very interesting comment, Joseph.
      I have noticed that when life permits me solid writing hours each day that I am more focused, yes, of course. To date all my stories have come with a beginning and end, but the middle has remained unknown to me until I write it. Then, once all that is settled, I dissect it all, make my outline, adjust, add in all my details, etc, etc. It’s almost as if my first draft is my making of my skeleton. Anyway, I find it interesting the correlation you make between the focus on one project and the time you dedicate to it. Amazing that without this trained focus your mind tends to wander off and grasp at all those other ideas – I imagine this is a great thing when one project is complete and you must begin a new one!

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