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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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!