My Writing Process

Apr 07

Fascinated as I am by the work habits and routines of fellow writers, I’ve been greatly enjoying the “My Writing Process” meme that’s making its way around the blogosphere. So I was delighted when the very talented Andrea Lani invited me to join in and talk a little bit about my writing.

Like so many of us here, Andrea and I met online. I don’t remember when I started reading her blog, Remains of the Day, or when she started reading mine, but I also can’t remember a time when I was blogging and didn’t know her. A recent MFA graduate, Andrea is a writer and mother of three. In her poetry (she’s in the midst of a month of poetry now), short stories, and nonfiction, she focuses on nature, motherhood, and how the two intersect. I have long been a fan of her smart, honest, no-nonsense approach to her writing and reading. You can read more about her and her writing here.

Thanks for inviting me to play along, Andrea!

And now my thoughts:

1)     What am I working on?

My big project (for now and the foreseeable future) is a non-fiction book about mother-writers. Originally I conceived of the book as a collection of literary biographies, organized thematically. The feedback that I’ve gotten so far, though, is to bring more of myself into the book, weaving the story of how I became a mother and a writer in with the stories of mother-writers before me. Telling other people’s stories is easy for me. Telling my own is harder. So I’m working now on leaning in to that harder stuff.

Many of my hours, though, are taken up by freelance assignments and more and more of those seem to be book reviews, which is a-okay with me. Getting to read a great book and then getting paid to write about it? Yes, please.

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think my obsession with history, and especially women’s history and the history of motherhood, gives my work a unique spin. I’m also very interested in contemporary culture and public policy and you’ll often see those conversations in my work. The goal of my writing – which I hadn’t really thought about until now – is to use my own experiences to give context to these larger historical and cultural currents, to tell my own motherhood story, sure, but also to use that story to shine a light on larger themes that are (hopefully!) relatable to lots of people.

3)     Why do I write what I do?

To be blunt, I write a lot of what I do because that’s my job. That being said, though, a few years into my freelancing career, I know what my niches are and I don’t pitch anything or accept any assignment that I’m not in some way excited about – either because the material is something I’m genuinely interested in or because I think I can learn something new from the assignment (whether that’s topical, like a piece I did once on personal finance, or procedural, like learning how to use new transcription software).

For my personal writing, which, at this point, is here on the blog, nonfiction essays I write and hope to sell, and my book, I often write, to paraphrase Joan Didion, to know what I think. Writing is the way that I make sense of the world, the way I give ideas and themes shape and structure. My life right now is that of a wife, a mother of three young children, and a nonfiction writer. My subject is that life and I write to figure out what it’s all about and how it connects me to a larger community.

4)     How does my writing process work?

My writing process usually begins with doing anything and everything I can to avoid getting started. I organize my pens. I start a load of laundry. I check the Internet to see if any school other than UConn has ever won the national championship in men and women’s basketball in the same year. (No, no one else has, because no one else is made of Pure Awesome. And UConn could do it again this year! But I digress…)

After ten minutes of futzing, I start. I sit at my desk, four days a week, until lunchtime. Some days all I’ll have to show for it is 250 words of garbled prose. Sometimes I’ll have 2000 I can live with. Some weeks the kids are sick or everybody has dentist appointments and I don’t spend much time in my chair. But I find that it’s really about the sitting. When I sit, I write. When I don’t, I don’t.

Next up on the My Writing Process blog tour:

Jenn Meer of My Jenn-eration: Although I have been lucky to meet several of my blogging friends in person, I believe Jenn is my first blogging friend who was an in-person friend first. In addition to being a wise, funny, supportive friend and the mother of three gorgeous children (including the world’s most delectable newborn), Jenn is a beautiful writer whose work has been featured at The Stir, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Kveller, and Mamalode.

Denise Ullem of Universal Grit: A self-described ponderer, noticer of small details, and spelunker of emotion, Denise writes honest, warm, gritty essays about life as a woman, partner, and mother of two. Her sweet, resonant essay “Perfectly Imperfect” appears in this month’s issue of Parents magazine and her work has appeared at The Huffington Post, in Little Rock Family Magazine, and in the collections From the Heart and This Is Childhood.

Speaking of which…

It seems fitting that, on the day I write about my writing process, I get to share with you the news that, This Is ChildhoodBrain, Child magazine’s first book, is now available for purchase.

This Is Childhood cover

I’m proud that my writing, including an essay I wrote to honor my daughter, is featured in this collection alongside the work of some of my favorite mother-writers, Aidan Donnelley Rowley, Nina Badzin, Galit Breen, Allison Slater Tate, Bethany Meyer, Tracy Morrison, Amanda Magee, Denise Ullem, and Lindsey Mead. Along with heart-wrenching, heart-warming essays on each age of childhood from one to ten, the book includes writing prompts and space for parents to record their own memories of each age, making it the perfect gift that will become the perfect keepsake.

I hope you’ll consider buying one for yourself – and for a friend!

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

tracy@sellabitmum April 7, 2014 at 12:26 pm

This series has been amazing to read! I cannot wait to read your book! xoxo

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Kristen April 10, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Thank you, my dear! xo

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Shannon April 7, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Congrats on the book! That is one awesome group of women. I look forward to holding it in my hands and to reading the one you are now working on!
I loved the peek into your writing world.
On a side note, you know I love you Kristen, but I will have to be rooting against your team tonight. There is too much Kentucky in my heart to root against the Wildcats.

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Kristen April 10, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Thanks for all of your support, Shannon. And I’m glad we can still be friends now that the UConn-Kentucky situation has resolved itself. ;)

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Pamela April 7, 2014 at 2:51 pm

I love hearing about your habits and your processes whether it’s writing or parenting or simply organizing your day. I always learn so much from your blog!! Can I just tell you how happy I you are writing this book! I adore your posts on mother writers. Yes!!

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Kristen April 10, 2014 at 1:17 pm

You are such a dear! Thank you, sweet Pamela! xo

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Galit Breen April 7, 2014 at 3:46 pm

So appropriate to learn more about your process as we celebrate our publication day! xo

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Kristen April 10, 2014 at 1:18 pm

I love how that timing worked! Such an honor to share this essay collection with you. xo

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Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri April 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm

I loved learning about your writing process, Kristin. I like how your answers reflect some of the struggles writers face. Some day it isn’t easy sitting on that chair and I also engage in some procrastination before I start to write. Glad I am not alone.

Congratulations on your publication!

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Kristen April 10, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Thank you, Rudri. If I’m going to have some bad habits, at least I’m in good company sharing them with you. :)

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thekitchwitch April 7, 2014 at 7:20 pm

I am so excited to read your book! I also appreciate your honesty–this isn’t any easy road we’ve chosen.

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Kristen April 10, 2014 at 1:20 pm

No, it isn’t, but I’m glad to share it with you. xo

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Privilege of Parenting April 7, 2014 at 8:55 pm

I find myself simply wishing that you should be happy—when writing and when not… I also find it interesting how we may hesitate to tell our own stories, when that’s often what’s most compelling for others to read. Maybe it’s our interest in truth and also in community… that writing to be less alone as much as to learn what we are thinking about.

Either way, congrats on all the cool stuff done and encouragement for all the wonderful stuff ahead.

XO

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Kristen April 10, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Thanks for the vote of confidence and for the understanding ear. I know you get this hesitation I feel and knowing that makes me hesitate a little less. xo

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Elizabeth Grant Thomas April 7, 2014 at 10:53 pm

This is great, Kristen; so thoughtful and well-written (as if I would expect any less from you!). I loved getting this peak into your process. And congratulations, again, on the book.

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Kristen April 10, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Thanks, dearie. xo

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Andrea April 8, 2014 at 11:39 am

Kristen–I love this! And I’m so looking forward to your book. And such good advice–if you’re not at the desk (or nested on the couch…where I do most my work in the wee hours), no words will make it to the page. And congratulations on being part of This is Childhood–I saw your name was included among the authors and I’m really excited for you!!

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Kristen April 10, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Thanks for inviting me to play along with this meme, Andrea. I found it fun and thought-provoking to contemplate my answers!

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ayala April 10, 2014 at 8:14 am

I love learning about your writing process, Kristin. Congratulations ! :)

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Kristen April 10, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Thank you, Ayala! xo

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Heidi @ love each step April 10, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Kristen, It’s always so comforting to me to read about other writer’s processes. I have spent so much time thinking that I was the only one who struggled, who procrastinated, who was afraid to begin. Honesty like this is such a great offering to our community. Thank you!

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Jack April 10, 2014 at 8:22 pm

In other words the way you do the work is by sitting in the chair. I understand that.

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Alecia May 12, 2014 at 12:30 am

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere so just now reading this. I’m still very eager to read your book and am excited that your writing was featured in This is Childhood. I’ll have to check it out. Hope all is well!

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