My friend and fellow writer Metta Sáma asked me to participate in a blog tour to discuss my writing process. You can find her blog on this topic here:
1) What are you working on?
Honestly, in terms of a clearly defined project, I’m sad to say, nothing. Perhaps lately I’ve been consumed with getting well. After being diagnosed with breast cancer last November, when I’m not getting chemo, having blood drawn, or having a host of people I hardly know fondle and photograph, various parts of my body, I’m writing about it. This writing has been different for me as I consider myself more a poet, even though I really enjoy narrative storytelling. Cancer has given me an excuse to practice this style of writing without taking myself, or it to seriously (probably more the reason I’m not working on a “project.”) I guess you might say my current project is a collection of essays about surviving cancer. Yeah, that!
2) How does your work differ from others writing in the same genre?
I’m not sure that my poems are very different. Although, there was a time not very long ago where I was arrogant/naive enough to believe that. (Lol) I’ve realized, however, that there are other poets who have chosen to work with the same tools I have: form, fractured language, redefined words, intensional grammar defiance… There are also many poets who view poetry through a similar lens: writing about writing while being black and female in America, or growing up in a single parent household…etc. What makes us all different are the individual experiences that are poured into the poems causing them to fill out in varying ways.
3) Why do you write what you do?
My experiences, in particular, are often coupled with query. I question everything, but mostly those things I think I know for sure. And oh, when my opinions change…more questions and more on top of that…! Those questions and subsequent answers become a nervous energy I have to get out. I write about the experiences of people like me in order to discover the answers to questions I struggled with throughout my own life. I write about injustice. I write about the underdog. I write about colors and smells. I write about places I’ve visited. I write about food, but not a lot. I’m a food snob. I write about my southern experience and what it’s like living in south Louisiana. I write about what it was like growing up in a housing project in New York and moving from there to Baton Rouge at 11 years old. Ultimately, I write about myself and the people who were present in my life over and over again. In so doing, I look to re/discover myself. I hope to figure out how that/those discoveries are supposed to help me exist in this world. And with each new discovery figure how to apply it to change, challenge and charter the world.
4). How does your writing process work?
When I was a young girl, I didn’t really have an outlet for my inquisitiveness. My mother was always working and when she wasn’t she was too tired to be very interested in my constant inquiries. I was often told to be quiet. As an only child for almost seven years, I had to find ways to entertain myself. I turned to books, then writing–neither an outlet for words to escape my mouth–my most earnest desire. Often, I pondered things silently which, I believe, eventually gave way to my writing process that I now refer to as “incubation.” I never really thought of how I arrived at a poem, or for that matter, how far back this thing I do reaches. A couple of years ago when I was in grad school, I was leaving workshop feeling like more of a bizarre bird after listening to a room full of poets talk about their processes including things like writing during a particular time and in a certain place. Some had other rituals that included eating favorite foods/drinks while pecking, or scribbling away waiting for the muse to grace them with a visit, however brief. I didn’t really have any of that–no real trackable process that I was aware of. I thought, is this yet another class I need to take–something else I’m late learning? The workshop leader, Laure Anne Bosselaar, asked me, how long it took me to write one of the poems I was having workshopped, what stage of the revision process it was in and finally, what my writing process was (I hadn’t uttered a word in class…). I answered all the questions including admitting to not having a process. I was waiting to be hammered with all the ways I needed to adopt this method, or do some weird thing or, other. Instead, she identified the process already working inside me–literally. I don’t sit down at any point trying to write. I do regularly spend quiet, uninterrupted time pondering ideas. As a kid it was in my room with nothing but myself, books, paper and pen. Now it’s in my car without the radio, during a walk, lying in bed in the early mornings just before daybreak or even in the shower. When I finally sit down to write, inside my head, I’ve already worked out a lot of the kinks, i.e., revised–multiple times. I taught myself early to “incubate” my ideas. I’ve tried a variety of other processes since this one takes a long time and often only yields one “baby” at a time. But, nothing else seems to speed up my production, or feels as good when I slip into it.
Next week, please follow the tour over to my friend Ann’s blog spot where she will share her writing process.
Ann Breidenbach is a Michigander turned Missourian who writes about motherhood, adoption and life after fifty. She earned her MFA from Solstice of Pine Manor College in Boston.
You can find her here:
Thanks for stopping through and feel free to come again!