The Writing Process Blog Tour is an internet meme for writers that functions like a chain letter. There are four questions to answer which are intended to reveal each participant’s approach to writing. I was inspired by Julie Hill Barton’s response to the meme so I asked her to tag me. Getting tagged means that you are invited to answer the same four questions on your own blog, where you can also tag/invite new participants.

I met Julie last year in Big Sur at an Esalen writing retreat with Cheryl Strayed and Pam Houston called The Story You Have to Tell. Read more about Julie and see who I’ve tagged below my responses.

My Writing Process

1. What am I working on?

I’m piecing together vignettes from my youth, centered on middle-school age when I really did not understand or like myself. I realize the way I viewed myself then built a lasting internal voice of judgment that I can probably air out by reconsidering the story. A lot of time has passed, so I can look back on that self as someone else deserving perspective and compassion. I have the ability to reposition things, and there is freedom in that.

I can already see that this batch of writing could take some surprising turns. So far there is more about my exposure to death than I’d ever considered. I mean, before sitting down to write I didn’t know that was a theme for me. That’s why writing is interesting. And, who knows, maybe once I get further I’ll see that the part about death is just a starter theme. The practice pancake.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I’ve never read anything else in this genre about me! Aside from that, I’m not yet sure. I think I’m still finessing a recognizable voice that needs more practice, and I’m open to how it distinguishes itself. I don’t really think about the genre.

3. Why do I write what I do?

To lay out and organize thoughts. If I don’t write, my mind naturally settles on paralyzing narratives. Writing breathes into doubt and creates space and possibility. My motivation for writing has changed over the years. Writing used to be very private for me. In my teens I kept a regular journal and I wouldn’t have dreamed of sharing it with anyone. It helped me sort out emotions and vent. In college I slowed down on journal writing, and got into writing poetry. I liked that poetry was an invitation to abstract emotion, because it allowed me to step back from myself and funnel feelings into something playful. I went to college at the University of Iowa, so I had access to great writing workshops. I minored in English and became more comfortable sharing poetry and other writing. I majored in photography, which fed my tendency to observe and frame things in selective light.

In my twenties I became active as a musician and performer and most of what I wrote became song lyrics, much like poetry to me. On top of the poetry of lyrics, songwriting offers melody to wash down or sing off difficult feelings. Once you start making use of your anxieties, it becomes easier to have and live with them. Dance with them! But private therapy is not why I write. I’m a reader too, and I’ve read honest things that make me feel connected and inspired by the art and craft of working with words; it seems logical to continue the thread. If anyone else can relate to something I write, it’s worthwhile.

4. How does my writing process work?

I’ve found that setting a time limit is my best structure. This year I put writing on the back burner for several months and enough is enough; it’s time to commit steadily. I have to show up and put in the time; nothing is going to take me over and make itself. I am promising myself at least 30 minutes of writing each day, and it works best for me in the morning. When I do it in the morning, it makes me feel more settled for the rest of the day. So that’s nice. I am not very good at sticking to a routine, but there are a couple of things I do everyday, namely yoga and writing, and allowing myself a little flexibility around the order is the best guarantee. Before sitting down to write, I prepare my coffee and set a timer. Usually by the end of the 30 minutes, I could easily keep going. Continuing is never the stretch. The stretch is getting started, and this 30-minute structure is what works best to start me. If I feel like I’m trying to make magic out of thin air and need more than a timer, I also have a list of exercises and prompts I can turn to. My bread and butter is freelance web & communication design, so my work load there usually determines if I can take more writing time. Even after just a few weeks of maintaining 30-60 minutes a day, I am really pleased with what is accumulating and look forward to more surprises.

 

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The Tagger

Julie Hill Barton is a writer, mom and dog lover living in Northern California. She has been published in Brain Child, The Huffington Post, Westview, The South Carolina Review, Louisiana Literature, and other journals. She has an MFA in fiction writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She also has an MA in Women’s Studies from Southern Connecticut State University. She is currently finishing a memoir about her battle with major depression and the dog that helped her heal. To see more of her work, please visit http://byjuliebarton.com.

The Tagged

Andria Alefhi is a writer and curator of the biannual zine We’ll Never Have Parisa collection of nonfiction short stories by first-time authors. She lives in New York City.

Do you want to be tagged? Let me know.