I am in the process of applying to an on-line novel writing certificate program at Stanford University (https://continuingstudies.stanford.edu/writingcertificate). Part of the application process includes, naturally, writing a personal statement. But part of the exercise includes discussing how and why you write. It made me think seriously about why I do this (besides a special mix of self-love and masochism), how (sometimes against my will), and when (at 4:43 AM right now of all times). I hope to hear from other writers about why they engage in this often arduous endurance sport called writing.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT:
Who are you besides a writer, and how does that influence your writing life?
What are your writing strengths? Weaknesses?
What are you working on now? How’s it going?
When and how do you work best?
What are your writing tools? A computer? A legal pad and a pencil? A journal and favorite pen? An iPhone?
What is the best writing book you’ve read lately?
In what writing communities have you participated?
What is your main goal in writing? Self reflection? Instruction? Enlightenment? Motivation? Fame and fortune?
If you could talk to one writer, living or deceased, who would it be, and what would be the one question you would like to ask him or her?
HERE ARE SOME OF MY THOUGHTS:
Every time I write something, I learn more about myself or the world around me, and so I try to write every day. This practice started in about the sixth grade.
As an undergraduate, I earned degrees in English and German. After graduation, I worked as managing editor of a 4-color, 100-page, monthly magazine. Seven years later, I continued my education to become a physician assistant (PA). I’ve been a PA for ten years, and I love what I do.
I am a daughter, sister, wife, friend, mother, healthcare provider, and writer. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but I love every facet of my life, and writing has always been a constant. I would like to cultivate more focus in my writing life. I believe I have the skills and ideas to reach people, and I’d like to give myself an honest chance to prove it. That’s part of the reason I’ve started this blog.
I write on my MacBook Air, I usually write early in the morning or late at night, my favorite writing books right now are Anne Lamott‘s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions of Writing and Life and Roy Peter Clark‘s The Glamour of Grammar. I’m always reading a writing book. When I’m not writing, of course.
I just finished a 10-week fiction writing course with the Gotham Writer’s Workshop. It’s the first time since college I’ve been in a writing group. I miss it already. The workshop atmosphere inspired me, and the online format fit well into my busy life. I’m amazed that a rural Virginia girl like myself can work with writers from New York to California to London to Dubai, including points beyond and in-between.
I feel like I have a strong grasp of language, its mechanics, and its potential. Peers have described my best prose as lyrical, and I love constructing clauses, sentences, and paragraphs that pack punch but maintain beauty. My weakness is plot development. I’ve read books on generating plot, but Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird has convinced me that I need to plot by writing daily and following where my characters take me. They know the way better than I, but sometimes I have trust issues.
I’m working on a piece that I started in the Gotham Writer’s workshop. It focuses on disparities of justice, particularly those affecting women. I had initially set the piece in Afghanistan, focusing on religion as a proponent or detractor of equality. Part of the story takes place in a women’s morality prison. My instructor and several classmates suggested creating a nameless setting and religion, thus removing politics from the story to focus on the pursuit of freedom from oppression. I’m currently working in that direction, although I don’t know if it is the right one. Time will tell. I do know that I like my characters, and I want to honor them with a story they deserve.
Usually, I want to talk to the author of the work I’m reading at the moment. So right now, that would be Anne Lamott, whose book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life is my writing bible right now. Her advice is instructive yet light-hearted, her prose lovely, and the book has taken a lot of the mystery out of writing for me. Her main tenet: write and write a lot, especially when you’re scared or uninspired. If I could ask her one question, it would be this: Would you read my novel? Just kidding. Well sort of. I don’t want to ask her a question just yet, because I still have 100 pages to read, which is a lot of answers, but I’ll keep thinking on it.
So basically, I write because it helps me to remember who I am, what I know, what I want to know. I write to inspire, to reach out to the world, to keep myself from going crazy. Writing gives me a sense of purpose. It opens my eyes to phenomena in the world I probably wouldn’t consider if I weren’t always thinking about how to render what I see in language. Writing automatically makes me a responsible witness of and to the world. It is something that always leads me forward. It will be something I can leave behind.
It’s what makes me a seriously writing woman.
BOOKS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE: