My Writing Process Blog Tour (and a writing prompt...)

My new solar Pope, blessing my writing process  

My friend and fellow animal lover and writer, Barbara Techel of Joyful Paws recently asked me  to participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. I first learned of Barbara when I read her memoir Through Frankie's Eyes. Actually, that’s not entirely true, I had heard of Barbara earlier when I went seeking a doggie cart or doggie wheelchair for my crippled pug Vader. In googling doggie carts I came upon Eddie’s Wheels in Sherburne, Massachusetts and also the story of Barbara and her dog Frankie, a dachshund that suffered from invertebrate disc disease and used a cart from Eddie’s Wheels to get around. Later when I read her book, Barbara and I had a chance to talk and become “Internet friends” since we live in different parts of the country. I admire so much Barbara’s warmth and authenticity in her writing.

Image of Barbara Techel from Joyful Paws

Although my post was supposed to be up earlier today, I spent the weekend in the emergency room with my mother who had a reaction to her blood pressure medicine and thus, am a little late in getting my post up. Yet, this is all part of life and definitely one of the many complications that can make the life of a writer and blogger challenging—how do we cope with deadlines amidst life’s crises? No easy answer, but something to address when it comes to talking about process. In any case, while I am late to post, I am happy to participate in this tour that allows writers to share what they are doing and how they are doing it. Why is this important?

Writing can be an isolating venture—hours alone toiling over a story, article, blog post or even journal entry with often little feedback on how the result will be received. We wonder am I the only one who feels this way? How does Stephen King get up every morning and churn out 600 page novels while I have been working two hours on a simple paragraph of introduction? I have written a number of times on my blog about the challenges in writing daily and in wondering if my content is up to par. This became especially challenging because I had a writing mentor who saw no problem in posting several times a day. One thing a tour like this one shows is everyone is different. And, that’s okay. I was feeling down about my own limitiations the other day when I turned on a podcast of an interview with Kelly Braffet, daughter-in-law of Stephen King, b.t.w. Anyway, the interviewer who has a regular podcast and blog launched the interview with an apology for his own lack of posts and noted that while he had hoped to produce a daily blog he was cutting it back to when he was inspired because he just couldn’t produce the quality of content he wanted writing daily. I felt redeemed. I am not alone. And, you aren’t either! It may not be daily posts, it could be a different issue altogether, but writers face similar challenges and share similar joys. Don’t believe me? Follow the Writing Process Blog Tour and learn what we as writers have in common…

My Writing Process:

What Am I Working On?

This should be an easy one, right? Truth is a number of things. My day job is as a freelance writer for several publications in the Vermont and New Hampshire area. Right now I am working on an article on radon—transcribing tapes and preapring to do a phone interview in an half-an-hour—for a real estate magazine; writing short pieces on a local gallery, a skincare company, and a business that produces a range of specialty food items made from quince for a second publication and a business spotlight on a Rutland dentist for a third. That is my day job.

I also have several overdue blog posts lined up: my pug Alfie has been sick and as part of the her new diet I embarked on an adventure in transforming her kibble into doggie biscuits; I spent a day visiting the multitude of pugs at my friend Joan’s in which one dog was lost then found, another stray discovered on the roadside and my Mom rushed to the ER. These are all posts that have been churning around in my mind like laundry in a washing machine, but I’m wondering how many will make it to see the light of day and how many, like a stray sock, will be left hidden spinning away indefinitely. There are only so many hours in a day. And, under the surface, beneath the scenes, in my spare time I am working on a memoir about the influence of my friend Joan and her pugs on my life and a book of short stories with dog-related themes. I have actually started the dog stories and have a wealth of blog posts to craft into the memoir and continue to revisit these as often as I can. I can truly say I am working on both. In the back of my mind are several other ideas—a book of my photo collages, a children’s book on one of the more interesting pugs I’ve known, and a half-finished children’s book featuring Vader. Those are there stored in the back closet if we are to press on with the clothing metaphor.

Why Do I Write What I Do:

Hmm, this is an important one and an amorphous one. A question that actually needs to be addressed in the writing of the memoir at the very least. The articles? I write them because I need a paycheck and because I love to write. Therefore I take what they give me whether it is an article on toilets (yes, I’ve written that. Used to be when you googled me that was the first article that came up. It's entitled "Take the Plunge" if you want to look it up) or on radon. The constant advice to any writer? Write what you know and love and I love dogs and a lot of other people love theirs, too, so they show up in my stories and my blog posts as other interests—my photography, my art, my nieces and nephews, my struggles and dreams. To be honest, I think for most writers, writing, seeing the world in story, is how we understand it. So, whether it is fiction or memoir, we write what we are trying to understand, what interests us, what scares us. We write to discover what we know or want to know…When it comes to my friend Joan and her pugs her life intrigues me and my reaction to it does as well. I’m trying to discover what lies at the heart of that attraction so I’m writing my way to understanding.

How Does My Writing Process Work:

In my freelance work I’m the consummate professional. I’m great with deadlines. I get an assignment, I create a folder for it. I research online, I set up an interview and follow up interviews, I transcribe my tapes. I go to my office or the local café and I write the story. It sometimes goes to the interviewee for fact checking or directly to my editor and I'm done. My rewriting occurs as I go along. Typically, there is not much time for anything else.

My blog posts? On a good day they come pouring out of me or I take some quiet time and draft a quality post of which I’m proud. On most days, I try to type something in the wee hours of the morning after interiews and articles have been completed and classes taught. When I am lucky I get a picture up and a post written before I drag my weary body off to bed. Lately, bed has been winning. I am one of those writers who needs more time to think and feel before crafting a piece and time is in short supply. I’m working on it.

My stories? This is where time seriously becomes an issue. If I am going to craft a good short story, I need time. A few hours in which to cocoon myself somewhere usually with an ample supply of tea and food nearby and immerse myself in my craft. This is the same for article writing, by the way, forget pen and paper, tea and snacks are the must haves in my writing process! You can get lost in that creative cocoon and it is a wonderful place to be. I look forward to those moments even as I war against them. War against them? You heard me corrrectly. I recently read a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which speaks about breaking through blocks and winning your inner creative battles. Art doesn’t have to be a struggle, but it often is and it seems when it comes time to write I’m not the only creative person who finds every means imaginable to procrastinate. It’s why I recommend to my students joinging a class or writing group. Deadlines help. It is good to be accountable. That said I think some self-imposed deadlines are in order to get my short story writing off the ground again. I just wish those stray dogs and emergencies would hold off for awhile This  brings me to another lesson—it is important as a writer to not only be disciplined, but to be forgiving of oneself. We are only human.

Finally, don't forget to laugh! There are volumes written on the frustrations of writing, the writing process, writer's block. My best advice to writers, don't take yourself too seriously. Part of being forgiving, is to have a sense of humor. It's okay to miss a blog post or get a poor critique, you can get it "write" tomorrow. (Bad puns are allowed as well.) Part of my writing process involves stopping to smile. Sometimes that means leaving the computer behind and getting out to play and sometimes it means filling my office with wee amusements such as my new solar Pope featured above. Struggling with a sentence? I just look up from my work and see the Pope offering his "sunny" blessing. I smile and all seems right with the world.

So now that you’ve heard what I have to share, tune in next week to the blogs of the three writers I have rcommended to see what you can learn from them.

Meet Gretchin Gifford, Your Mom Is Strange:


Gretchin at the Bottom of the Heap (photo by me, btw)

Okay, I have to admit a partiality here because Gretchin Gifford is my sister-in-law, mother to the most wonderful girl on the planet, my niece Ellie, and yes, she is indeed strange, but in a good way, she can tell you all about it on her blog Your Mom is Strange in which she writes about the newfound joys and challenges of motherhood and the strange, wonderful comedy that is life! Her writing keeps getting better and shoot, I admit it, I’m a wee bit jealous. How can she be raising this beautiful, precocious two-year-old and still find time to write and write well? Damn you Gretchin! Seriously though, do check her out. I think you may just love her as much as I do!

Meet Rachel Barlow, Picking My Battles:

One of Rachel's drawings

Rachel makes blogging and drawing and writing look easy, although I bet she wouldn’t think so. Rachel and I met as fellow writers in Jon Katz’s Hubbard Hall Writers’ Group and Rachel has just soared since then launching her wonderfully creative blog, Picking My Battles and a host of other endeavors from writing short stories and selling the online as ebooks to her forthcoming ebook of drawings entitled It’s a Sketchy Life. I love Rachel’s drawings and animations and her keen observations on mothering and daily life. Her blog is a small gem whether she’d admit it or not.

Meet Cathy Armato of Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them:

An image of Cathy from Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

Cathy Armato is a new friend. I met her at in Las Vegas at the airport. We had both just arrived to attend Blogpaws, a conference for pet bloggers. I was drawn to Cathy’s warm personality and kind smile and found that we had much in common when I frequently found us gravitating toward the same places at the conference. I am just getting acquainted with her blog Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them, which seems to be filled with a wealth of information!

Writing Prompt: Take a moment and share your writing process? What gets your writing started? What are you working on and why do you write what you do? Feel free to comment and share on my blog!