Monday, May 12, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

My friend, the author and editor Michael Nye, tagged me in a blog tour author Q&A. If you haven't already read his thoughtful entry, you can find it here. My part here is to answer the four questions that Michael sent me, and then "tag" another author, link you in her direction, and the thread continues.  

1. What am I working on?
I am making very slow and careful edits on a draft of a new memoir, Forgetting, which measures grief against transformation in a continuing life. I am also writing new poems, several about professional wrestlers. What interests me about wrestlers is how their bodies define, sustain, and, sometimes, fail them, often suddenly, against their best intentions, and with terrible consequences. In this way, I think the poems make a natural analog to Forgetting, as well as my first two books, Young Widower: A Memoir and The Consolations: Poems.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I take to heart what a teacher once said about writing, that the subject matter may change but the subjects do not. Formally, my memoirs don’t have arcs, consolations, analogous discourses, or literary truths distinct from literal ones. I try to follow Louise Gluck’s advice about poetry: the music follows when the writing is good. I tend to write poems for the people I love.

3. Why do I write what I do?
I write to close the gap between consensus and experience.

4. How does my writing process work?

I start with a question that interests me. Then, I write like hell to finish a first draft of a book—poetry or memoir—that answers the question in every way I can think to do so. Over the next few years, I go back and edit, research, shape, gut, add whole new sections or pieces, etc. The first writing is manic, intensive, optimistic, abstruse, and full of many, many placeholders for things I know I’ll say better when I revise. The slow editing that follows feels very high-stakes and immensely satisfying. I’ll take chapters out and paste them into separate files, which I’ll then revise across 60 or 70 successive drafts, each one time-stamped and saved separately, just in case I lose something I love or need to retrace my steps back to a wrong turn. I keep open books I admire around me when I’m writing. They put a chip on my shoulder, in the best of ways. In the writing phase, I’ll plug into my headphones and listen to a single album over and over. I edit in silence. I do my best writing late at night, after everyone is asleep. The last two books I wrote, when they were finished, I ended up needing a stronger eyeglass prescription. It’s hard on the eyes to write on a computer at night.

I've tagged the poet Chloe Honum to go next. 

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