Monday, April 28, 2014

How I Write

When my friend Angela of Jumping With My Fingers Crossed tagged me to be a part of a blog tour she was participating in, and said that all I had to do was write a blog post about my writing process, I was all, “Yeah, man!  There’s nothing I like better than talking about how I do things!  I have so much to offer the world I am the QUEEN of the writing process WHEEEEEEEEE!!!!

Then I cruised on over to her post about her writing process, and also checked out this one, and that one, and this one, and that one, and this one, to see how other bloggers – ahem, writers – do their thing.

I was a little intimidated.

I mean, these guys are for real, people.  Many bloggers who I know and read are real writers who write for newspapers and magazines and have written books or are working on books and write for websites and own websites and have English degrees and get paid and EVERYTHING.  I’m a person who sits at her laptop and hammers out sentences and paragraphs that serve mainly to expose that I’m a weirdo.



Then I remembered that just a few weeks ago I went to a writing conference where Phil Donahue himself told me personally that You Can Write, that this is my purpose, that I have a responsibility to share my experiences, feelings, and ideas. And by personally I mean that I was sitting in the back of a hotel ballroom while he was speaking to me and 300 other people.

And then I considered again these other writers who I read, and I saw myself as a part of their group, and I climbed up out of my shame hole.  And they inspired me, as only writers can do for each other.  I can write.  And I have a writing process.  And ho-ho-ho, I’m gonna share it with you.

1. What am I working on?

Always, always blog posts.  I write two blogs – this one and a faith one called Stumbling Everyday.  I try posting in each regularly, but I’m not always successful.  I work on several blog posts at a time, which means that at any given point there are a few unfinished ones hanging around, and when they’re finished I’ll clean them up and hit the old publish button.  Or maybe I won’t publish them at all, which happened recently - I wrote two posts that I decided not to publish for different reasons.  Maybe someday you’ll read them.

Look!  It's a picture of THIS BLOG POST in draft form.  I'm blowing your mind right now.

I also write the occasional guest post, appear in articles for writer friends, or less frequently, do sponsored posts.  I love to be published on other websites but mainly that has happened with posts that I’ve already published on my blog.  I’d love to say that I write a lot that will bypass the blog to go directly to editors, since it is a huge thrill for me to send something out there to be read and judged and deemed worthy for publication, but for now I got nothing.  Life is really, really busy this time of year, and this year especially, so unfortunately I’m not devoting as much time to writing as I wish I could right now.  Aaaaand I have a terrible Facebook habit.  There I said it.

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

I believe that even if all writers write about the same topic, we will each have something different to say.  My writing differs from others in its genre because it’s MY voice.  Nobody else writes like I do because I’m the only me out here.  

I am honest.  I write like I think.  I am not afraid to tell you that I messed up.  It’s sort of what I strive to talk about.  If I did something stupid, and I'm aware of it (oh, boy, that's the whole key, isn't it?), you can be sure that you'll read about it here.

Sometimes I write humor, and sometimes my writing is heartfelt, and I won’t lie – I worry about not having a specific genre.  I am working on combining the two a little bit better, because I have really serious thoughts that morph into humorous ones pretty quickly, and there’s a way to write like this that I just haven’t mastered.  On days that I think I succeed at this, the angels sing, and the days that I don’t, I just hit the publish button and get another cup of coffee.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I want people to read what I write and say “Huh.  She is really awkward.  Sometimes I feel like this.  I can totally relate.”  I want to encourage people to not be afraid to be themselves.  If my little blog can encourage even one person to be brave enough to say “You know what?  I screwed up, and I feel like an idiot, and I will do better next time,” than I am over the moon happy. 

I feel like our society puts too much emphasis on showing only the best parts of who we are, and people really suffer because they feel they can never measure up.  I want to come alongside them and say, “So you messed up.  Everybody does.  It’s not the end of the world.  Now get out there and do better.”  And then I’ll slap them on the fanny and watch them run off to tackle the world and maybe even trip over their own feet in the process and I’ll laugh at them and with them because when people trip over their own feet it’s totally hilarious for everyone involved.  




4. How does my writing process work?

So I get up at five o’clock in the morning. 

I know: Crazytown.  But I am a super duper morning person.  I read a little, and write in a journal, and then I open my drafts document and I write.  Some days, I already have an idea all ready to go and I just write it out.  Other days I sit in front of my computer and peck away and give up and go read some more.  Then the kids are up and I help them get ready to go and I take a walk and I come back and write.

When I have a new idea but I don’t have the time to expand on it, I quick type up a sentence or two and a title – always a title – and the date to get it down in draft form before my mind eats the idea.  When I publish something, I transfer it to a “finished” document to avoid republishing something.   

Throughout the day I write here and there, and other than chores and errands and appointments I am at the computer.  I keep pads of paper and post-its everywhere that I use to jot down ideas – in the car, in desks, in my purse.  I combine all these pieces of paper in a little notebook I keep on my desk and when I get stuck I refer to them. 

Where the magic happens.  It's so magical that I don't even need a computer.


I don't always use these paper scraps ideas.  Sometimes I don’t remember where I was going with an idea.  Once I wrote an idea for a blog post on my checkbook ledger and it contained the following little gem: “Jam out with your clam out.  Milk, milk, lemonade.  Around the corner, fudge is made.”  That was fun to read every time I opened my checkbook to log a debit.

My biggest struggle with writing is avoiding time-absorbing social media.  I also struggle with writing before doing everything else.  When I publish something I feel like I am released to do other things, but until then I feel a constant pull or redirection toward getting something written.  I think this constant pull is why writers sometimes feel a little crazy.  We operate in our own heads so much and there’s never an end to the task.  I try to tell myself that if I write a little everyday I’ve done well. Sometimes I believe it.

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Part of this blog tour is to tag other writers to share their writing process.  I am fortunate to have many friends who also write, so it wasn’t hard for me to come up with a couple of people to do one of these posts and continue the blog tour!  Look for their posts soon.

First is Kim of Co-Pilot Mom, a blog about life with her husband, Co-Pilot Dad, and their adorable boys, Alpha and Bravo (not their real names, silly!).  I adore Kim’s writing - her style is warm, funny, and heartfelt.  She weaves stories with details that make me smile, and reflects about life as a mom and wife in a way that I relate to so much.  Kim has a knack for using words and images that I instantly connect with   I love pouring a cup of coffee and reading Kim's blog.

Second is Erin from One-Sided Momma.  Erin kicks me in the teeth with everything she writes. And that is a good thing.  Also a mom of two, Erin tells stories about her life with such rawness of emotion and honesty that I often find myself laughing and yet coming away from her blog in tears.  Also gifted with the use of imagery that I can fully relate to, she dares you to stand next to her and see things from her very eloquent perspective.  


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30 comments:

  1. Loved reading this, and looking forward to Kim and Erin's too. I am SOOO not a morning person, or a late night person. I'm a noon person, I guess. XO

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    1. Being a noon person is nice, too. I used to be a 10-2 person, and I loved it.

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  2. I think you should have written my "How I write" post. Really, this all hits so very close to home.I nodded my head the whole way through.

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    1. I'm so glad you can relate! I really loved reading how other people approach writing. Some are refreshingly laid-back and some are amazingly prolific but all are inspiring.

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  3. Loved reading about your process - and I knew it was going to be good. There is definitely nobody else like you out there - I am always in awe of what you write, you're a true artist!

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    1. Thanks, Kerstin! You are one of my most encouraging writer friends, a great cheerleader, and one of those that I was talking about who I am in awe of. We should get together and bask in each other's glory. I could really use some color on my face. xoxo

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  4. I am also a morning person, but I've found I don't write well then. How strange is that? I'm so glad you've found a system that produces good work, since I really enjoy reading the end result.

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    1. Thank you so much, Tammy! I am not always so productive in the mornings, either. But when the stars align and I have gotten enough rest, five o'clock is the magic hour.

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  5. You're the only you out there. Exactly! Nice post, A.

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    1. Thanks, Cary! I appreciate the kind words. I love that you love that GIF. I can watch it about four times in a row before I start laughing uncontrollably. Like with snorting and drool and everything.

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  7. I am so not a morning person. I don't have a 'good time' that I write. I just write when the inspiration hits, and when I happen to be able to get to my laptop. Very little magic happens, in other words.

    For the record, I think you're a truly gifted writer!

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, Alison! You are so sweet. :)

      "When I happen to be able to get to my laptop" - that part is harder than any other, sometimes.

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  8. I love you. So glad you did this. The GIF, your honesty, your wit, your words, you...I love it all. Two things I just don't understand....5 a.m. and the clean desk. How do you do those two things?

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    1. Thanks Angela! So glad you tagged me to do this! The 5 am cannot be explained, but the clean desk can: I cleaned it up the day before. It's not always like that. Plus, my laptop was moonlighting somewhere else when the pic was taken. :)

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  9. I love your writing, Andrea. And I truly admire your early mornings to read and write. I aspire to do that one day. Right now my early mornings are spent sleeping as I stay up WAY too late every night as it is the only time I can write and spend time with my husband. But I love the quiet of writing with an early morning coffee.
    Thank you so much for tagging me - I am am feeling all intimidated myself now.

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    1. Thanks, Kim! I can't wait to see how you do it. Your writing is so fresh and seems effortless, so I'm interested to see how you get it all done. xo

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  10. Milk, milk, Lemonade! I love that one. I'm cracking up.
    Your process is a bit like mine for sure. I am all about showing the not good and good parts of myself. And I was intimidated to be asked to be part of this tour.
    I LOVE it, though. It's fascinating.

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    1. Thanks Tamara! I *may* have taught that little rhyme to my kids when they were much too young. I'm not always the most appropriate mom out there. :)

      I love reading about how other writers write - I enjoyed yours for sure!

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  11. I HAVE to start writing down those "OH I HAVE AN IDEA" sentences. Because I get them, ummm, everywhere, and then think I'll remember that...alas, I never do.

    But I love reading about how women I respect and love (like you) take on their thoughts and words. it was really wonderful to read about how you get your incredible words to us.

    thank you for sharing. xo

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Kir!

      I left out all the times I don't write down the ideas. Because I'm usually in the shower when they come, and I do the "a loaf of bread, a container of milk..." mantra until I get out and to a piece of paper, and then POOF my brain eats the idea. And then I chastise myself for desiring cleanliness over being Stephen King. Because naturally my brain hogs all the good ideas for itself.

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  12. I worry about not having a specific genre too, but FWIW Andrea--I think you are hilarious. You're nailing the humor/heart combo. :)

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! I fight against "mommy blogger" status in favor of "humor writer," but why? Life really got funny after I had kids.

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  13. I love that picture of you and your steaming cup of coffee. :-)

    The biggest clue for me that you're a writer? - (besides the fact that I always love to read what you have to say) - is that you feel such a pull to write before you can be released to do other things.

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  14. To me, your writing is the perfect blend of humor, heart, honesty and oh yeah humor again.
    It's hard to be genuinely funny and you are. Really.

    This paragraph, especially, could have been ripped from my head, except not at 5:00 AM because I'm still sleeping then.

    "I also struggle with writing before doing everything else. When I publish something I feel like I am released to do other things, but until then I feel a constant pull or redirection toward getting something written. I think this constant pull is why writers sometimes feel a little crazy. We operate in our own heads so much and there’s never an end to the task. I try to tell myself that if I write a little everyday I’ve done well. Sometimes I believe it."

    The fact that we could always write MORE, that we're never DONE, weighs on me.
    Not as heavily as, say, my obsession with Cheetos.

    But more often. For sure.

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  15. 5 a.m.! No wonder you read everything I post. Which, incidentally, I don't think I've ever properly thanked you for. I need to take you to dinner or carry a child as a surrogate for you or something.

    And your writing would be great no matter what. With or without Phil Donahue. Although it is nice to have Phil's approval....

    xo

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  16. I woke up for good today at 4:15 and thought, "Hey Andrea's already awake EST." I remember when I found your blog, I saved it on my home page so I could come back to your voice. It's distinct, familiar, and all the right kind of funny. Thank you for including me an day like Kim, I'm feeling rather intimade-y but will sort through that and be happy to pass the torch.

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  17. That pretend word should have been intimidate-y and I should never write another thing before 10 PM.

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