Though relatively active in social media—with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts, in addition to this blog—I have never been very good at it. Sure I can write things and take pictures and disseminate them, but this practice of connectedness, this back and forth that many social media platforms require (or at least, inspire) has always made me a bit uncomfortable. It’s not that I have a problem with reciprocity—in concept or in practice—but there is something that always holds me back.
As a result, I have often functioned as the end point that nobody is seeking. Even as a child, I was the one who never got around to sending out the chain letter that had started in Japan and made its way halfway around the world before ending up with me; who burned the chocolate chip cookies I was supposed to take to the next kid on the list, so he, in turn, could bake something for the next kid.
And so when my friend and colleague, Siobhan Curious, asked me if I wanted to take part in the blog hop, I was a little apprehensive. But then I thought about what excellent company I would be in and realized that this could be my opportunity to break free from this chain of failures.
For those of you who have not read her work, Siobhan Curious is a wonderful writer and master blogger. In Classroom as Microcosm, she inspires and comforts other educators by writing honestly and humorously about the many successes and challenges she has faced in her work as a college English teacher. Her homemaking blog, What’s That When It’s At Home, delights in the simple pleasures of everyday life.
Now onto the hop:
What am I working on?
For the last few years, I have been working on a novel, or at least that’s what I tell people when they ask me this question. But as the book gets closer to completion, it is starting to feel less like a novel and more like a collection of prose poems that a reader could delve into at any point and find their way into the story and the lives of the characters.
How does my work differ from other work in its genre?
This is a hard question to answer because I am not exactly sure how I would characterize the writing that I do. Perhaps what makes my body of writing unique is that there is far more traditional storytelling in my non-fiction work; narratives that trace the personal histories connected to certain dishes or anecdotes that serve to contextualize more philosophical meditations. When writing fiction, I rarely feel the need to move in a straight line, to connect the dots or answer questions, to bring closure to the narrative. The non-fiction writing is much more self-contained and more coherent.
Why do I write what I do?
A friend told me recently that he often skips over long passages of description when reading, impatient to return to the plot. I too love a well-plotted novel, which is why I am such a fan of good detective fiction, but I also love that feeling of being fully immersed in the world of a text, of feeling that the text is somehow with me, like a coating on my skin. This is why I love descriptive writing. I strive to create worlds that people want to spend time in—to write affectively, so that the reader feels that they are the one experiencing the scent or scene or feeling that I am trying to convey.
How does my writing process work?
Writing for me has always been an excruciating process. It starts with an idea, which is followed by hours and hours of writing and rewriting. The good news is that I rarely write more than one official draft. The bad news is that I can spend an entire day revising a single paragraph. These days, I have at least found a system to deal with writer’s block: Whenever I am struck by inspiration, I get out my iphone and write it down. When I sit down to write, I always have four or five ideas waiting to be fleshed out or played with or (ultimately) discarded.
Next week on the blog hop:
My talented friend Elisabeth Oliver is a writer, teacher and scholar who writes about literature and life on her new blog, How to Live. What to Do.
Though I only met Karen Messer a few weeks ago, I have been reading her blog A Fine Messer since its inception, drawn to her beautifully-written vignettes about how our lives are shaped by the physical spaces that we encounter.