I was nominated to write this by my friend Kayleigh, whose work you can check out at her writing Kayleighsstuff.blogspot.com and read about her dining experiences at Gourmanding.blogspot.com. We go to Emerson College together and she introduced me to her writing group, Griffins. She is generally awesome.
1. What Are You Working On?
Deadlines are my best friend. I am constantly trying to put myself under the gun as I work. In her memoir Bossypants, Saturday Night Live writer Tina Fey said something along the lines of “The show didn’t go on because it was ready. It went on because it was Saturday night.” (I don’t have a copy of the book, so the words might be off but the meaning is there). I write a weekly column, “A Call to Action (Figures),” at Action Figure Fury every Wednesday, so I work on that every week. Sundays I handwrite a draft, Monday I type it and take the photographs, and Tuesday I upload it to the site and check it again before sending it off to my editor.
I also just started a little feature on here called “This Week in Writing.” I handwrite that on Thursdays, and type it up and post it on Fridays. I promise these things to my readers and that forces me to work as hard as I can to get it done. I take pride in doing what I say I’ll do, so it’s doubly important to me to finish what I say I will and get it posted, whether it’s great or not.
For fiction, I don’t write nearly as much as I should. I am in a writing group (the aforementioned Griffins), which is at times very hard to keep up with because (for the semester at the very least, when Kayleigh should come back from her hiatus because we miss her) I need to turn in a story every three weeks. On top of that, I have two workshop stories and a revision due this semester. That means I’ll probably write six or seven stories this semester, but if I really set myself to it I could be writing so much more. The problem with living by deadlines the way I do is that I rarely work when something isn’t due.
2. How Does Your Work Differ from Others of Its Genre?
Depends on what you’re asking about, because the answer will vary pretty widely.
For my column, I haven’t read anything quite like it. There are a lot of columns out there, and most of them are excellent. There are also a lot of action figure based writers and publications, and a lot of them write great opinion articles. What sets me apart is I’m doing a weekly column about action figures. I’m combining two common things into something I haven’t found anything quite like.
“This Week in Reading” is just whimsical opinions about books I read. It’s pretty informal and I wouldn’t describe it as particularly unique.
My fiction is very hard to nail down. I write a pretty wide range—horror, historical, literary—but so do most writers these days. I’m glad to say a lot of writers are trying to write more female and minority characters into their fiction, so that’s not something that makes my work unique. It makes me a part of a wider movement. I guess what it comes down to is that my work is filtered through my worldview. This will sound like a cheap plug, (which is something that permeates all of my work), but you’d get a better understanding of what that’s like if you were to read my writing rather than have me explain it.
This isn’t really the work itself, but I submit aggressively. I’ve been reject at least a hundred times in the last two years and that doesn’t bother me. I’m a business, a brand, and I pitch a lot of ideas. I’ve also worked as an editor and reader and I know that a lot of things are just wrong for the specific magazines, and that helps me separate my emotions from the business of it.
3. Why Do You Write What You Do?
That’s, by far, the hardest question on here. I’m going to plead the fifth. I don’t know why I write what I write, and I think anyone who understands themselves that completely is going to be out of a job. Writing is a self-reflexive act, so if you know yourself that well, it seems like you’ve reached the point where you wouldn’t need it anymore.
4. How Does Your Writing Process Work?
There are a lot of best practices for writing. Writing at the same time everyday is supposed to make the ideas come faster. Writing in the same place will signal to your brain that it is time to write, and help you get into a flow state much quicker. Unfortunately, I don’t do either of those things. In a fantasy life, where I don’t need to work to buy myself groceries and pay my rent, I would write at the same time and in the same place everyday. I am going to talk about my process as honestly as possible in this post, so the first thing I need to tell you about my process is that it’s a piss-poor process. I don’t know what I’m doing, and the mild success that I have has been pure luck.
I write, or at least aim to write, six days a week. While I’m in the school year, I’m normally more successful than I’d like to be. (I’m a perfect thirteen for thirteen in October). The way I keep myself motivated is by putting an X on the calendar everyday I write. (I got this from a friend, who got it from Jerry Seinfeld, I believe). I try not to judge myself by the quality of my output. There will be good days and there will be bad days. There’s nothing anyone can do about that. As long as I am writing, I give myself credit for doing what I can.
Another thing that helps me is having different notebooks for different genres. I do my work-writing (I do some writing for a mediation company called Active Neutrals) in a fancy leather notebook with gilded pages. It makes me feel sophisticated and helps me to write in a non-conversational tone. I use 70 page spiral notebooks for my fiction. They lower my expectations for myself, and free me to be more creative.
I also write exclusively with blue 1.0mm Papermate pens. They’re my favorite color, and I believe having that kind of routine helps me enter into flow better.
5. Now to Tag Other Writers (Who Will Be Posting on Their Blogs 10/20)
I was supposed to nominate three people, but failed pretty miserably to find people. To make up for my mistakes, please visit my friend Marie Sweetman’s Blog three times. (And Kayleigh’s, up top, too!)
Marie goes to Emerson with me as well. She’s an editorial assistant at Ploughshares Literary Journal. She and her feral cat live together in Boston. Her website is http://mariesweetman.com.