Kristen, from Little Lodestar, posted these questions in her space a few weeks ago. Her questions offered a chance to excavate my writing process, as well as learn how other colleagues navigated their writing.
Writing is solitary work. When Kristen’s meme emerged, so many writers answered these thoughtful and revealing questions and shared their insight. While I read these thoughtful answers, I felt less alone. That is the power of writing, of sharing, of community. Here are my answers and please visit the websites and responses of the writers that I list at the end of this meme (you will not regret it):
1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet?
When I started my blog 5 years ago, my husband read my posts prior to publication. In the last few years, he subscribes to my feed and reads my posts when they hit his inbox. He will often comment in person or via text when a particular post resonates with him.
2. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback about it?
My mother is an avid fan of my writing and I know she reads my posts with regularity. I do not expect my family or friends to read every post I write. When a friend or family member sends an email, leaves a comment or compliments my writing in person, it helps. Affirmations from those you love carry immense weight.
3. What do you do with the pieces that continually get rejected–post on your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let it go?
I tend to post pieces on my blog without pitching them to other sites. This approach limits my publishing credits elsewhere, but this past year, I realized the flaws in my need for immediate gratification. I’ve revised my approach. I am submitting to others sites prior to posting these pieces on my blog.
4. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?
Rejected work always holds a learning lesson. Once it is rejected, I will review why it failed to resonate with a particular publication. Sometimes I let it go. Other times, I will pick up a theme in the piece and rework into another essay. When I write, I tend not to target it toward a publication, but on experiences. After crafting an essay, I then focus on whether it might be a fit for a particular publication.
5. What is your main source of reading-based inspiration (especially you essayists)? Blogs? Magazines? Journals? Anthologies? Book of essays by one writer?
I read a variety of written work. In the morning, I always read my Feedly feed of bloggers and writers that push me to think and reflect. In addition, I love essay writers, particularly Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit and Megan Daum. I follow the Modern Love column and the New York Times essays. I love magazines and subscribe to numerous publications, The Atlantic, Psychology Today and Poets and Writers, as well as others. Once a month I receive a short story from One Story that helps me connect with fiction which is my first writing love. I never miss a post by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings – her site is an education, both practical and philosophical.
6. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?
My ideas are sparked by the daily musings of my life. Sometimes it is a mere observation that pushes me to jot an idea on paper and then a whole essay unravels when I start typing on my computer. Other times a conversation with my daughter or friend creates the momentum to memorialize a moment that disappointed, uplifted or left me questioning more about life. I often write about my childhood and my relationship with my father, the Indian culture and loss.
I do lean on other writers too. There are writers who reveal their vulnerabilities without hesitation. This writing helps me gain the courage to share my struggles too.
7. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so under appreciated?
I love Beth Burrell’s writing on the First Day. Her writing is often clear and reflective and helps me analyze the subjects that mean the most to me personally. I adore Dina Relles’s writing – she melds the fictional elements into her nonfiction and creates lyrical prose that leaves an undeniable impression on the reader. Another writer I’ve recently discovered is Amanda Magee. Her writing resonates in my gut and I love how she blends story and metaphor together with subtlety.
8. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”?
Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art, Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work, Susan Scofield’s The Scene Book and Mason Currey’s The Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.
9. Have you ever regretted having something published? Was it because of the content or the actual writing style/syntax?
I published a piece a few years ago without thinking of the repercussions. Every misstep translates into a learning experience if you allow it to unravel that way. I made a personal choice to make certain topics off limits in my online writing life.
Please read the answers of these writers who shared their responses:
Image: A day of travel by Justin See via Flickr.
“Affirmations from those you love carry immense weight.” So true.
I’m happy that you have changed your thoughts about submitting—your writing is lovely. What a beautiful answer to #6. My writing is mostly sparked by my life, too, but I love your comment about other writers making themselves vulnerable and giving you courage. I feel the same way. Ah, yes. Dina Relles. She often writes exactly what I’m thinking except with prettier words. 🙂 Ooh! I love Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work. Okay, this is getting long. Apologies. I am so glad you answered these questions. Thanks for sharing.
When another writer reveals a struggle or truth, it definitely is affirming and makes me feel less alone. We form a tribe in our online world and collectively they offer a safety net. I am so grateful for writers who share their stories – it soothes in small and big ways.
Looking forward to connecting with you in the upcoming year. Thanks, Sarah, for your lovely insight.
It’s so true that writing, sharing and community have the power to diminish our loneliness. I love that about the blogging world, and social media. Looking forward to checking out the writers and books you referenced, and also perusing your blog when I have a little more time.
Thanks for participating in the meme. I love how we all can learn so much about one another through the details that we offer in these nine questions.
Please let me know if my book recommendations resonate with you. I found them quite helpful.
I love this post, Rudri. Thank you for sharing!
Glad you enjoyed it, Ayala. xo
Very interesting reading, Rudri. I rarely think of anything I write for the blog as something I would work on to send out. To me, they are usually different types of writing. But that is because I keep limiting my genres. Blog posts are more like “articles” and I like to send out “stories” (and poems). That’s dumb, I guess. Maybe I should rethink that.
Sometimes it is hard to create space for all of the writing we want to explore, but I do think that it is worth a try. I definitely think it is possible to expand on a theme in a blog entry and transform it into an essay or potential chapter for a nonfiction book. I do hope you reconsider your approach. xo
I am a huge Amanda and Dina fan so must check out Beth asap! Also your books (other than the Pressfield) are new to me … I will track them down. I love these questions and learn something new from every set of answers! xo
I’ve also found so many of the answers to these questions helpful and way to rethink my approach to writing. Thanks for adding your insight to the meme Kristen created. xo
I just finished everything I never told you by Celeste ng. I think you’d like it. I’m going to check out these recs. thanks!
Thanks, Michele, for the recommendation. I will definitely check it out. Hope you are enjoying the holidays.
I’m very intrigued by your approach that you explain in #4. For much of the past two years, many of the things I’ve written for submission (though not all) have been inspired by a prompt or theme in a given journal, etc. Then if it gets declined, I feel a little stuck about “what next”—so part of my approach starting very recently is to write the pieces that “come to me” and then find a potential home. This has been, by far, the most rewarding, I think more because the writing ends up being better (my success rate has been higher too, so that’s also telling). I am so glad you allowed us inside your world here. We also read many of the same things. 🙂
I free write in my journal based on writing prompts, but never considered these pieces for possible submissions. You’ve given me inspiration to revisit some of these past writing exercises. My writing is personally more fulfilling when it flows from an emotion or experience, but I need to explore other options as well.
Thanks so much for these questions, Kristen. They sparked so much reflection and loved witnessing the viral energy of your post.
Loved reading more about your writing style and habits. I just got “The War of Art” – on your suggestion from a previous post! Happy new year! Cheers!
Awesome, Christine. Please let me know if his work is helpful for you. Happy New Year to you too. xo
I enjoyed reading this, Rudri, and realize how long it’s been that I’ve written more “seriously.” I love that your mother reads your blog. Thanks also for the many references to writers you admire; I’m going to look them up. Good luck for another year of writing and growth in 2015!
Thanks for the kind wishes, C. Take your time writing again. When you do, I will certainly be cheering you on. xo
I enjoyed this examination of your writing life. A fresh new year is such a perfect time to ponder what we’ve been doing and decide where we can make improvements in 2015. I think you’ll have a broad range of new bylines this year!!!
Thanks, Windy. Always love your enthusiastic attitude and your words of support. So grateful to call you my in-person writing colleague. Wishing you a healthy dose of bylines as well. xo
Loved reading your answers, Rudri! And cool that you listed all of us who have answered. Look how this naturally grown without the whole tagging thing that happens in some memes. It was an organic meme!
Yes, I love how this meme had a viral energy about it. I enjoyed and learned from all the participants.
#1 and #2 can be soooooo tricky. (My partner rarely reads me unless I ask him, and I like it that way. My kids used to read me occasionally. I think I like it that way.)
Writing is such a raw and revealing process, or can be, it is sometimes far easier to be authentic with strangers than those closest to us.
You’ve provided some wonderful recommendations for us, thank you.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful new year, Rudri.
It is easier sometimes to be authentic with those that don’t know us, but my hope is that those loved ones who do read our writing gain a better understanding of our perspective.
Happy New Year, Wolf. I look forward to connecting with you in 2015. xo
I’ve been enjoying these posts since Kristen wrote hers.
My husband does read my posts, as well as my parents. Sometimes I get surprised to learn that a sibling does, or a close friend. I read so many blogs that I don’t know why I’m so surprised that someone would read mine.
It is always an unexpected surprise when someone approaches me about something I wrote. I assume people do not read my work – so when it comes up in conversation, it is a pleasant compliment.
I also really enjoyed your responses, Rudri and added your link to my post! I feel similarly about #3, I think it’s so important to resubmit. Opinions are so vast, and what doesn’t work on one site may work well on another.
Thank you for some great suggestions on other wonderful things to read, I’ve known about One Story for a while now and think it might be time to sign up. Looking forward to checking out the other names and books you mentioned (besides the ones I know already like the fantastic Dina Relles!).
Happy New Year, looking forward to reading more in 2015.
One Story is a valuable resource for fiction writers. Once you receive the story, you can check out the website for an author Q & A session that discusses their inspiration for writing the piece and their personal writing process. I love that they offer a behind-the-scenes look at how an author crafts his or her piece. I believe the subscription is only $20.00 a year.
Thanks for adding me to your meme. Looking forward to connecting further in 2015.
Rudri! I saved this post to my Pocket app yesterday so I could savor your answers during a quiet moment. It came last night when I was thousands of feet up in the air on a flight home after a week’s vacation with my family. Two boys were sleeping on my lap, and I was scrolling and enjoying your words as they kept me company in the dark plane cabin. Then I came across my name and your incredibly kind words went straight to my heart. Suffice it to say, it was a moment. I am so grateful for you, and for our remarkable community of writer friends who shine a light on my world and deepen my days. So happy to walk this path with you, dear friend, and you must know it’s mutual–thank you for sharing your beautiful words with us.
The feeling is mutual, Dina. Looking forward to sharing words and illuminating the pathway with light during 2015. xo
Hi Rudri, it’s nice to meet you through this experience of writing these answers. I share your reading loves, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy more of your posts. Thanks for linking us together so I could find you!
I love that this meme created unexpected good connections. I’ve learned so much from every writer’s answers. Looking forward to getting to know you and your work in 2015.