Wondering About Other Writers

Early in December, Kristen from Little Lodestar wrote a post called, 9 Things I Wonder About Other Writers, and it sparked quite the response. Turns out many other bloggers share her curiosity, myself included.

I love reading and writing about the creative process, and knew I’d soon have to add my own answers. Scroll all the way down for a list of everyone who has responded so far – if I missed anyone, please let me know in comments and I’ll add you to the list!

Here are my answers with Kristen’s questions in bold…

  1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet? (I share with my husband something that I submit elsewhere only AFTER it’s been published, and I am pretty certain he does not read my blog 90% of the time.)

Not for blog posts. My husband actually has a good eye for typos (alas, I often don’t) but the idea of a snappy turnaround is foreign to him. I could give him a post and not hear back for weeks! So mostly he finds them after I publish…if he reads the post. But he is always my first reader for fiction.

  1. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback about it? (Comments from my family and friends, either online or in person, are overwhelmingly rare. I’m totally fine with that, but I am curious if this is the norm for others.)

Like many have said before me, this can be a sensitive issue if I let myself dwell, but the truth is, I don’t actually know. Some read my work, like my dad. He is so wonderfully supportive of my writing, as he has been my whole life. His girlfriend, the more computer savvy of the two, signed them both up for my newsletter and to follow my blog, which was very sweet.

My husband reads my blog in spurts. He’ll catch up and let me know about it, but usually not with any feedback. As far as close friends, I’m not sure, but if and when they do I’m grateful.

  1. What do you do with the pieces that continually get rejected–post on your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let it go?

Fortunately (or unfortunately?!) I don’t have that problem since I’m not currently submitting to many other publications, but it has happened a few times. I think when I was younger I would’ve been more likely to feel the sting of rejection and scrap it, but I realize now that sometimes a piece either hasn’t found the right home, or needs to be reworked/reconfigured in order to find one.

Of course there are times when you just have to say enough is enough, which I did with one essay I submitted. It was a piece I wrote for a mothering publication, one that had accepted a previous essay of mine. After getting the rejection, I realized I had been trying to write in a style that didn’t come naturally to me. It reminded me that it’s not about racking up a number of publications, but writing from my heart and in my own voice.

  1. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?

I answered this above, but I think the second part of the question depends on the piece. Sure, there are times when you realize, okay this piece isn’t working and I should set it aside (I never delete! I just “hide” things on my hard drive). Then other times it’s a matter of reshaping and editing to make it the piece it should have been all along.

  1. What is your main source of reading-based inspiration (especially you essayists)? Blogs? Magazines? Journals? Anthologies? Book of essays by one writer?

I’m not a magazine person, though I used to read The New Yorker quite religiously (before I had kids, alas) and I have an on-off again relationship with Poets & Writers. But mostly, I keep up with essays and fiction via blogs. I use Bloglovin to keep track of them.

  1. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?

Daily life, which sometimes includes things I read and hear about. I gather nubs of ideas like crumbs and scribble them into notebooks or on my phone. Sometimes a news headline will spark my attention, other times it’s a phrase or an image. I believe Dani Shaprio refers to it as the shimmer in her marvelous book, On Writing. You know it when you see it.

  1. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so underappreciated?

Wow, this is a great question and I’m a bit embarrassed to say I’m drawing a blank. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like… Note to self, new year’s resolution, read more.

  1. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”?

I am loving and savoring Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés and am about to give away a free copy! It’s the perfect book for any woman who has been in creative hibernation and is ready to come out, claws unsheathed.

women who run with the wolves

I’m still reading it because it’s not the kind of book you tear through, at least not for me. I read a few pages at night, or when I can steal a moment during the day, and her powerful words invigorate, inspire, and more often than not, give me chills.

The funny thing is, I tried to read it in college and failed. It was too dense or perhaps I wasn’t ready for her wisdom. But last year my dear friend Anastasia, an artist and writer, suggested I try again, and her recommendation was so persuasive and spine tingling, I ordered it right away.

I’ve since recommended it my friend Janice, an artist and jewelry maker, who coincidentally couldn’t get through it in her 20s either. So far I think she’s enjoying it. On her family holiday card she added this line on the back, which I loved so much I put it on my cork board in my office:

time of the wolf

  1. Have you ever regretted having something published? Was it because of the content or the actual writing style/syntax? (Obviously we all grow as writers and looking back at our “clunkier” writing can be cringeworthy…that’s not what I’m talking about here. I mean are there things you wish you hadn’t said out loud either because of what you said or how you said it. I’m not in this position right now, but some things I’d like to write about might get me there. And yet…how can I ignore those topics, you know?)

I have. It was content, and at the time I thought I was being sensitive to the person I was writing about, but turns out, not so much.

Without going into too much detail, I wrote about a personal experience with my daughter that was traumatic for my family, which occurred at a friend’s home. Months later I found out she had been terribly hurt by the post. Sadly to say, even after a heartfelt apology we are no longer close. I’ve since deleted it and am now more conscientious when writing about people in my life.

I wrote my reflections about that experience here.

I think there was a better way to write about what happened, and my advice to people is to pause before hitting “publish” – especially if it’s very soon after a traumatic event. I’m not talking about censoring controversial topics or strong opinions, but being cautious when our words may hurt the people we love.

Thank you Kristen for igniting this amazing ongoing dialogue with your wise and wonderful questions. Here is my additional question:

How do you balance blogging with other kinds of writing, if you happen to do both? (Or if you write for more than one blog.) Do you allot time for each? Do you feel guilty, like I sometimes do, when I choose to write a blog post over working on my albatross, I mean novel? Have you ever taken a blogging hiatus to finish a different project? I’m super curious to know how other writers deal with this, since finding a balance is a struggle for me.

Interested in sharing your behind the scenes writerly habits? If so, feel free to post your answers in comments or on your own blog. I will definitely come by and read them. 

Here is the list of bloggers who have answered Kristen’s questions. Please take a look, I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s responses! 

Nina Badzin

Lindsey Mead (A Design So Vast)

Lara Anderson (Joy, Lovely Joy)

Justine Uhlenbrock (Heirloom Mothering)

Andrea Jarrell

Stacey Loscalzo

Tricia Mirchandani (Raising Humans)

Rivki Silver (Life in the Married Lane)

Zsofia McMullin (Hunglish Girl)

Rebecca Klempner

Sarah Brentyn (Lemon Shark)

Being Rudri

A.F. Marcom

Evelyn Lauer

Katie Sluiter (Sluiter Nation)

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23 thoughts on “Wondering About Other Writers

  1. Like you, I love this series of questions and am endlessly fascinated by the way others answer them. I haven’t read the Estes, actually, and have often thought I should. You’ve convinced me!

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  2. Such interesting answers! I also don’t have such a good eye for typos, and will often find embarrassing mistakes days after I publish a post. I’m also trying to read more in the coming year (though sometimes just blogging and existing take up all my time!). Sorry to hear about your loss of a friend after a post. That’s really tough. I haven’t experienced that level of pain, but I could relate to what you wrote in your other post about more people reading your blog than you realized. When I started getting some traffic to my blog I had to step back and really think about what I wanted to show the world, and what would be best kept in my journal.

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    • Ha, glad to know I’m not the only typo prone blogger 🙂 Thank goodness for real editors, if I ever (fingers crossed) get one. What you said in the last line is exactly what I had to do. I didn’t realize who was actually reading what I wrote, but once I felt the repercussions, I adjusted my boundaries accordingly.

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    • It’s weird initially how you come from a private, sometimes imaginary place when writing fiction and then people react strongly to it. I’ve had to submit work under a pseudonym to avoid this very issue. And fair enough, we’re dealing with real people and real feelings.
      I’ve always liked hearing about how other writers deal with the practicalities of their writing.
      Good post
      Skinny Jeans Mum

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      • Hi Kamille, thanks for your comment! I probably should’ve been more clear, the time my writing was taken personally wasn’t fiction, but a post about something that happened in real life. However, I have known people who like to read between the lines of fiction and try to find what’s “real” and what’s made up.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for listing so many of the people who responded to Kristen’s post in one place!

    In answer to your final question, I usually post only once a week or so, or maybe two very short bits in a week. For me, my blog is a way of networking with my readers and with other writers. It doesn’t generate income, except indirectly. If I have a choice between writing something for a paying venue or for my blog, I will almost always prioritize the paying venue.

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    • Thanks, Rebecca, I just loved everyone’s responses so much 🙂

      I appreciate your answer to my last question. It makes sense to put paid work ahead of unpaid, though unfort, for now, all of mine is pro bono! However, still makes sense since ultimately, my goal is to publish a novel, and/or stories, and the blog is more of a fun way to build community and play.

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  4. Yes! #3 and #4… I wrote something very similar in my answers. Trying to write for a specific publication (or rewrite for one) can lead to writing in a style that doesn’t come naturally to the writer. Not fun to write or read. I’m so sorry that happened with your daughter. Great advice to those who write personal essays: “pause before hitting ‘publish'”.

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    • Hi Sarah, thanks so much for your comment – and I just added your link to the list! I am looking forward to reading your responses.

      Yes, pause before publishing is a lesson I wish I knew back then! But glad to have it now.

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  5. I’m so happy you answered these! I’m particularly struck, and grateful, by your candor in the last answer. This is something I think about constantly as I ponder whether to open Pandora’s box about an aspect of my life that I don’t much write about publicly. I need to think about YOUR questions…and intend to come back to answer them soon!

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    • I see your comment, it was just in hiding! Thanks so much Kristen, for posing these fantastic questions, clearly you struck a nerve 🙂

      The whole pause before publish thing is tough, because I don’t necessarily think people shouldn’t write about life, the messy parts of it included, but when things are heated and/or traumatic, sometimes it’s best to let things simmer down before posting, or perhaps, even writing. But it’s such a personal and post-by-post decision.

      I’m eager to see/read what you’ve been thinking about taking out of Pandora’s box…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ack! My comment got lost somehow! Needless to say I’m really happy you answered these, particularly your candor in the last one. It’s something I think about often with a particular topic I don’t write about publicly (yet). Good food for thought—thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Like many other commenters, I’ll praise your candid responses. I have also found it difficult to balance honesty with vulnerability. Being “true” to the story isn’t the only thing that matters, as it turns out. I appreciate your reminder to pause before publishing.

    I’m going to give Bloglovin’ another try; I’ve been using the blogroll from my old blog ever since Google Reader was discontinued, but it’s about time for a new organizer.

    Like Becca, I try to keep a once weekly post on my blog. I find it easier to take the pressure off if I imagine I’m starting a blog post, so I think that’s why I usually start typing there even if I end up transferring to publish it elsewhere. I allot general time for writing but not specified time for each type, and I attempt not to judge myself for how “productive” I was in that time as long as I was writing (which isn’t always successful). I used to try for 1k words a day, but now I try for an hour a day. Happy new year! Let’s agree to be kinder to ourselves this year.

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    • Exactly, being true to your story is just one facet when writing about real life.

      I really like Bloglovin. I never used Google Reader, but when it was disbanded I heard about BL and gave it a try. It’s such an easy way to organize my favorite blogs. I also read blogs on WordPress.com but since I have to actually go to the site it’s not quite as easy as getting a digest in email.

      Thanks for chiming in about how you balance your writing. Once a week is a good blog goal for me, too, and I totally agree about being kinder to ourselves this year! Glad to have you in my Bloglovin list and look forward to reading more of your words in 2015 🙂

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  8. I loved reading your answers to these questions, Dana. It’s been terrific see how many similarities we writers share, even though we’re alone at our keyboards during this process. I too have a “hidden” folder on my computer desktop with pieces that didn’t get much traction in publications or journals. Maybe I’ll dust them off someday when I can come at them with a new perspective.
    Happy New Year!

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  9. I enjoyed reading your answers, as well as composing my own responses to this meme. I am not familiar with Estes’s work and am eager to check out her words. Your last question is an important one and I’ve often thought that my need for immediate gratification pushes me to continue blogging and sacrifice longer projects. It is an area where I need to change directions. Thanks for asking the question, Dana. So glad to connect with you and looking forward to more of your work.

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    • Thank you Rudri. Estes is fascinating, I really like taking small sips of her. Sometimes weeks pass and I realize I haven’t read her and then I dive right back in.

      I appreciate your honesty regarding my juggling writing/blogging question, that is often how I feel as well. If I’m working on my novel, as I have been for a while now, I feel conflicted about letting me smaller essays and blog posts go by the wayside, and vice versa.

      Looking forward to keeping up with you in the new year!

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  10. Dana, it was so great learning more about you and your process through your insightful answers. Your answer to #9 really hit me as I find it so tricky to know where that line is–needing and wanting to express yourself freely but also being sensitive to others’ feelings…not easy for those of us who like to “get it out there.” Thank you for sharing your answers to Kristen’s great questions. And your additional question: That is the real zinger for me! I have been working on a book for too long to admit, and feel like I am constantly being sidetracked by my blog or other writing assignments I pick up here and there. I am seriously considering taking a blogging hiatus so I can FINISH my book. I definitely struggle with the balance of it.
    Happy New Year to you!

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    • Thanks so much Julie! #9 is still something I continue to wrestle with, especially knowing some of my family follows my blog…

      I really appreciate and relate to your answer to my bonus question about finding writing balance, and your words, “I have been working on a book for too long to admit” are taken right out of my mouth! Sometimes I fall into the doubt pit and wonder if I’ve been wasting my time, but usually I dig myself out. I think taking a blog hiatus is a good idea, and readers (at least me!) do understand. We all only have so much time in a day, especially us moms.

      Happy New Year to you as well!

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    • Oh, I always have to prod my husband, he is so slow! I hope yours reads it soon. The next thing I’ll have to show my husband is a novel. I’m thinking he might take as long to read it as it took for me to write 🙂

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