How I Write, or, Pulling a Blog Post Out of My…

beginnings

I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes kind of girl. The whole peeking around the curtain thing is exciting (please don’t read into that line, this is a family blog). I’m talking about the process, people. The artistic process.

Writing can be such a solitary practice. By nature it has to be, unless you’re one of those collaborators (lucky you). But for most of us hunched-over-screens-all-across-the-globe kind, it’s solo stuff. Which makes it doubly more fantastic to read behind-the-scenes about writers.

That’s probably why I’m totally enamored by this Writing Process series that I discovered over at one of my favorite blogs, via one of those “blog hops.” (WARNING: rambling sidebar happening now – I’m sorry, but I have a hard time getting behind the “hop” name, since for me it conjures up such a bizarre juxtaposition of frogs, bunnies, and 50s dances. But moving along…)

Inspired by this, “hop” I decided to write a bit about my own practice. Specifically, my blogging practice, because my fiction one varies, as you might expect. I’m more flexible and fancy free with blogging, which may or may not be a good thing.

So, here’s the thing about me:

I’ve never been much of a planner. In writing or life in general. I’m more of an instinct girl. Inspiration turns me on (again, not in that way, come on!). I feel a stirring, sense a seed (WHOA, no terrible puns unintended, I swear) and I go with it. Sometimes I fall on my face, other times I soar.

Like right now I’m thinking the above paragraph is a bit of a face plant, but I’m leaving it since time is of the essence. Which, ultimately, leads us to my biggest challenge in writing ANYTHING:

I have no time.

Seriously. Sometimes I don’t even let myself pee. Well, not until it’s a real emergency anyhow. I forget to eat, shower, and brush my teeth because I’m often too busy feeding, bathing, and brushing everyone else’s teeth (not my husband’s, just to clarify).

mom humor

Since I don’t have time to pee, I don’t have much time to do anything else.

So how do I write blog posts (let alone anything else)? Well. To clarify, when I say “no” time, I really mean extremely limited, and when it occurs, it can be interrupted at any moment. I write when Little Guy naps and Bunky’s at school. Both have to happen at the same time. I write when I have a babysitter, which is for about three hours one morning a week. I occasionally write at night after I wrestle LG into bed – but sometimes this doesn’t happen until 10pm. Not even kidding about that.

For example, right now it’s early evening and I’m writing this while Bunky takes a shower and Little Guy is dancing to the Frozen soundtrack. I’m standing in a corner of the kitchen (where I can see LG out of the corner of my eye since we live in an apartment) so he doesn’t see the computer because if he does, he’ll want to watch Frozen videos on it, or play Thomas the Train games (torture). Right now he’s asking me to help him because he’s spinning in circles and threatening to fall into the train table.

Thirty minutes later… okay, I’m back. It’s mere seconds until the bedtime bomb explodes so this will be brief. I quit earlier so I could dance with my two-year-old son to “Let it Go” while we both belted it out, in pale comparison to Idina Menzel’s version, but rather adorably if I say so myself.

Yet, you can see how the time thing is not on my side.

So, here’s what I do. Here’s the HOW.

I write in PIECES. A little here, a little there. It can take me weeks to write a post. Some days it’s all I can do to upload some photos.

What also helps is to THINK about my posts in advance. I do some of my best thinking in the shower (maybe because I’m alone?! Though not recently since LG has become a shower-addict). I think when I’m waiting for Bunky at school pick-up, when LG is falling asleep. Thinking helps. I can formulate my ideas, take notes on my phone, maybe even think out loud. Ever see a woman pushing a stroller talking out loud to HERSELF? Might be me. Some posts are written entirely in my head first.

It’s a piece-meal process that took some getting used to. In my early blogging days (as in almost 3 years ago!) I used to get a little OCD about finishing. I’d start a blog post and feel this NEED to finish it. And when forced, inevitably, to stop, I’d get upset. I quickly realized I’d have to change my ‘tude because my life was not going to be changing any time soon. Interruption is a parenting byproduct. To get upset by it is futile and exhausting. So, I got used to it. I started to expect it. Knowing it may take a dozen (more or less – this post took exactly 12!) little moments to make up one post, makes it easier to put the computer away when I have to.

Now, there are some times when I have a chunk of time – when the sitter comes and during LG’s naps. He will sleep at least an hour, maybe two, and sometimes if the stars are aligned, three (!). Something Bunky NEVER did, so I really and truly treasure and appreciate his nap times. I try to squeeze out every single minute of them. For writing. Dishes, laundry, and sadly, dinner planning often get sidelined. Sorry, but I have my priorities.

LG sweeping laundry

Yup. He’s “sweeping” the laundry.

When I have my block o’ time the best thing I can do is PLAN AHEAD. Meaning, THINK AHEAD. If I think about what I want to write about, what I’d like to accomplish – be it finishing a blog post or a scene in my novel – I am better equipped at making it happen. If I force myself NOT to go online (not for email, not for research if possible), I am more productive. If I make an effort NOT to look at my phone for vital texts (I don’t actually get vital texts, but sometimes I forget this), I get more done. When time is of the essence, you do all you can not to waste it. I spent a good decade or more putzing around the computer, with entire DAYS at my disposal, and even though my time is so incredibly limited (in comparison), I might actually be writing more. Crazy, but true.

It seems obvious in retrospect that this blog, Aliventures, should have made my Top 10+ list, but here are two great posts by this lovely UK writer who is also a mom. The first is about making the most of your writing time. Along the lines of what I wrote, but without all the rambling. Second, this inspiring post about whether to call yourself a writer when you’re not writing. I definitely could’ve benefited from reading this when I was too exhausted by new motherhood to think about writing, and feeling crappy because of it.

So, go forth and write (or not). Write in long luxurious stretches, or short choppy ones. Write while “hiding” in your kitchen, or compose gorgeous prose while you shower or go for a run. Steal a few minutes to jot down some notes when your boss isn’t around or your kids are watching TV.

Please, share your tips and tricks for getting those words to appear. Despite the chaos of life. I’d love to hear them.

 

10 Awesome Writing Blogs


They make one of these for everything, don't they?

There’s one of these for everything, right?

This is a writing post, clearly. But before I get to my list of awesome blogs, an aside:

Recently, I went out of my (solitary, antisocial, hiding-in-a-dark-corner) comfort zone and went on an audition. I know, insane. But there’s this national event called, Listen To Your Mother, and it features 12 essayists reading their work aloud on Mother’s Day. This is a stretch for me for two major reasons: one, I’m primarily a fiction writer (with the exception of what I write on this blog, of course) and two, I rarely have the occasion to read my work aloud. Not to mention in front of a huge audience.

The essay, in case you’re curious, compares my mother’s labor toward death, which I witnessed, to my own labor with Bunky. Two entirely different things, you’d think, but more like flip sides of a coin.

Me and my mom circa 77.

Well. The good news is that I mustered up my courage and auditioned. Even better, I reworked an unfinished piece and polished it up nice and pretty-like. The not as good news is I didn’t make the cut. They had over 70 auditions and only 12 spots. Plus, the essays need to tell a story of sorts, and perhaps mine didn’t fit in. Who knows. In any case, I’m proud that I gave it a shot. I plan on submitting the piece to other places and maybe it will find a home after all. Truthfully, I’d rather have it published and read by others than read it aloud in front of an audience.

Because most of us writers are not actually performers (though I’m sure some are). We tend to come from a more solitary stock, the kind that skulks in the back of bookstores and hunkers down in front of computers. But there are moments when we need help, and thank goodness for the Internet, because it is FILLED with free advice.

On the flip side, since we’re talking about flip sides, it’s very easy to get buried beneath TOO much free advice – the good and the bad. It helps to first find the writing blogs that you like, that speak to your style, and then keep track of them on something like bloglovin (you can even follow me on it).

Now hang on, don’t go running off yet. Be careful not to follow too many blogs, because you may find yourself reading a whole lot about writing, but not writing so much. OR, trying to incorporate too much of other people’s advice into your work. My friend and fellow blogger, Kath, wrote a post about this, and other writing challenges, here, check it out. She’s a fab writer and illustrator whose site I often turn to for both insight and advice (and this is why I’ve added her as my 11th awesome blog!)

Getting back on topic here, the key is finding balance – read only the blogs you love, then filter through the individual posts, taking in ONLY what you need. Ignore the rest. This is the tricky part because once you start reading, you may think, oh crap I have to change everything about my story/novel/essay. It can really mess with your brain. My advice is try not to over think and go with your gut instead. No one is an expert on your WORK except you. Sure, other blogs can help you hone your craft and perfect certain techniques, but only you know what your story, novel, poem, or essay needs.

This baby knows where it's at.

This baby knows where it’s at.

And now finally, here are the 10 writing blogs I’ve been perusing lately to help inspire me as I toil through my novel revision rewrite. Maybe a few will appeal to you. But if not, don’t worry. Just find the ones that do. (And then tell me about them!)

In no particular order…

10 AWESOME WRITING BLOGS

  • Helping Writers Become Authors … gotta love this blog name, and it happens to have some fantastic advice
  • Live Write Thrive … great posts on technique and grammar, plus a wealth of info in the archives, check out her older series, The Heart of Your Story
  • Fiction University (formerly, The Other Side of the Story) … insightful and practical posts by a fantasy writer, but the info is universal and spot on
  • Terrible Minds … do you enjoy acerbic humor and foul language as much as I do? If yes, then look no further, the advice isn’t shabby either (actually, it’s pretty stellar)
  • The Write Practice … where the other blogs are more advice driven, this is action driven with writing prompts and practice ideas
  • Moody Writing … another fab name, right? Solid advice and eye catching images may get you in the mood (couldn’t resist, sorry)
  • Write to Done … a place to go for inspiration and advice, plus writing prompts
  • Goins, Writer … this Goins character writes posts that are practical and inspirational
  • Writers Helping Writers … resources and hints from the authors of the Thesaurus series
  • A Design So Vast … not a writing blog per say, but this woman’s posts often blow my mind, turning the seemingly mundane into magic and inspiring me to do the same
  • * I know I’ve already hit 10, but I must add Minuscule Moments of Inspiration … the blogger I referenced earlier, whose writing and camaraderie I respect so much

There you have it. But this is only the tip of the iceberg of awesome writing blogs, so PLEASE share in comments about all the blogs I’m missing. Can’t wait to add them to my queue.