Glen Miller Band plays “Chattanooga Choo Choo” in the background as I write…
Several weeks ago, I was asked by fellow writer Jodi Cleghorn to join the Blog Train and share my work and writing process. I was unable to jump aboard and follow through with my best intentions at that time. Then, just last week, another fellow writer, Michael L. Swift, invited me once more to participate, and I accepted (once more). This time, however, I have fulfilled my obligation. I am grateful to both Jodi and Michael for the invites.
At the end of my responses, I share with all of you the crafty, artistic, and energetic writer who has accepted my invitation to keep this writerly train rolling.
So here I am, on Track 29, leaving the station…
1. What are you working on now?
What am I not working on right now? 😉 I have the summer ahead of me – nearly 8 weeks of full-time writing to accomplish several goals.
I will continue to write for our local paper, both my column and selected features. Personally (in a most professional sense), I am focusing on four specific works.
–Night Terrors, a 115,000-word novel written 20 years ago and revised for release this month as an eBook.
–Fossil Five, a novel-in-progress about a teacher who, after his death, leaves five very special students his last, essential lesson taught in three unexpected journeys.
–Critical Essays, primarily about Edgar Allan Poe, Baltimore, and the provincial nature of the towns along Chesapeake Bay.
–Journaling Strategies, a handbook for individuals interested in journaling toward wellness.
2. How does your work differ from others of the genre?
The very thing that separates me from other authors is that I do not spend too much time in any one genre. My longer works are fiction (from literary to horror), and my shorter works are creative nonfiction (memoir, personal essays). Somewhere between them is a collection of uncut ramblings and less-than-contemporary poetry. I try not to box my work into trends or the guidelines of genres. In fact, much of my work is ill-defined as one “close” category or another. The result? Effective lines (I have been told) that don’t really have a prescribed home.
Is it too wild? Too undisciplined for the more traditional business-side of publishing? Probably. Agents and pubs don’t like inconsistency or writers who are not afraid to throw down the joker every now and again. This is one of the reasons that I self-publish most of my work. To me, it’s more important that the writing I do closest to my soul gets out to my readers in a form that is as genuine and authentic as when I wrote it.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I have heard many authors – young and old alike – equate their necessity to write with the largely autonomous process of breathing: to go without writing would be to go without oxygen; it is what keeps us writer-types alive.
With that said, I write what I do because each work is a unique, self-standing part of who I am, and there are many parts.
In the words of Hugh Prather, “There is a part of me that wants to write, a part that wants to theorize, a part that wants to sculpt, a part that wants to teach…To force myself into a single role, to decide to be just one thing in life, would kill off large parts of me. Rather, I recognize that I live now and only now, and I will do what I want to do this moment and not what I decided was best for me yesterday.”
Each work that I publish is a part of me. In the world of publishing, though, that is not necessarily a good thing that my work is all over the genre map. Agents and publishers like focused little writing experts, machines that crank out the formulaic pieces that build credentials, establish authority in a particular area, and make good dough from all that intensely focused concentration.
This is, in large part, why I am poor.
I write what I do because it is in me, and I wish to share it with my readers. If that means that I break the conventional genre barriers from time to time, then so be it. Two things, however, you will find consistent in my work.
First, I stick to the line of truth. My writing always falls a little to the left, or a little to the right, of the truth line. My fiction is very realistic, and my nonfiction is very story-like. I respect the line that separates fiction from nonfiction, though it is sometimes hard to tell what is real and what is not.
Second, regardless of what I publish, I try to reach into the inner sanctuaries of my characters, to get to the core of the human condition that is relevant and relatable to each of us. Writers need to touch their readers in some capacity, and I believe that is done through my characters and the way they experience the events in my stories.
4. How does your writing process work?
Trust the process.
I first learned this phrase from some good friends of mine over at the Maryland Writing Project. It’s a simple mantra that represents the myriad approaches to writing.
Trust the process.
For most of my works, it starts with a seed: a line, an image, or a conflict that I experience in my day-to-day interactions with nature and with others. I then turn to my Daybook and expand on those seeds and see what grows from them. Sometimes, a work of fiction blossoms; other times, a deeply personal essay that never leaves the pages of my journal. I never know how it is going to end up until I begin writing.
Once I make the conscious decision to publish the piece, then my writing takes a turn, as it recognizes that an audience is now a part of the equation. The graphic below details that transition once I make the decision to publish.
I have multiple works in process, and sometimes my energies pull me from everything else to get one work wrapped up and out to my readers. At other times, I dabble a little each day on 3, 4, or even 5 different pieces.
Trust the process. It’s the only way to know for sure what is to reach a larger audience, and when.
Who is up next?
Cara Moulds is an extraordinary writer, photographer, and designer. She has produced dozens of videos on living a rich life beyond measure; hundreds of essays on wellness, art, writing, and living fully; and thousands of photographs of nature’s beauty that have been displayed throughout the country. Next week, on June 30, Cara shares with us her secrets to her success as she hops on the blog train. Take the time and enjoy her insight; you will not be disappointed!