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”?
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.