Kali, who writes one of my favourite blogs ever, nominated me to answer some questions about writing. I’ve read other writers’ answers to these questions and enjoyed discovering new perspectives and philosophies about writing, and reading about everyone’s projects.
I can’t promise my own answers to these four questions will be as interesting, but I’ll give it a shot!
What am I working on?
At any time, you can ask me this and my answer will probably be, “Two or three short stories.” They probably won’t be the same two or three short stories every time you ask, but I do seem to always be juggling a few.
I’m not one of those writers who has a huge cache of work, much as I wish I could be. To me, my stories can be quite temporary, and the one I’ll love this year can seem silly and wrong in two years. Still, I do try as much as I can to develop and nurture the two or three I’m working on at any given time. I like to think that my frequent bouts of “Argh, I hate all of this, I’m starting over” are down to me simply being in a growth phase as a writer, and soon I will be able to stand behind something I wrote years ago, but we’ll see.
In 2012, I saw Paul Auster read and be interviewed at the International Festival of Authors. In that interview, he said, “It’s impossible to describe how much I dislike my own work.” I felt comforted by that.
How does my work/writing differ from others in its genre?
I used to think my writing was old-fashioned, too wordy, too many commas. It felt like literary magazines were full of experimental writing or snappy, plot-driven stories with twists and lots of dialogue. But lately I’ve started to notice that other writers write in the same way I do – both emerging writers and established ones – so I suppose I can say my writing doesn’t really differ too much from others in its genre anymore.
That said, I do write long so it’s hard to find literary magazines to submit to. Many of my favourites accept stories of up to 4,000 or 5,000 words. I can’t even imagine writing a short story that short anymore!
Why do I write what I do?
I wrote a novel once. It wasn’t for me. I can’t remember when I settled into the short story as a form (I started out writing poetry), but it suits me very well. I love to read novels, but as a writer I want to focus one one or two themes and a very small cast of characters. Though I do write short stories on the longer side, they are still short stories, and I like working within those constraints.
As for blogging, I suppose it’s habit! I’ve been doing it since I was 17, and I’m 34 now. Though the world of blogging today is often frustrating, I can’t really imagine my life without some from of written expression online.
How does my writing process work?
It usually starts with a setting, or a theme. For example, in 2010 my husband and I were stranded in England when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted. Not only did that event seem huge on its own, but it also magnified other, more ordinary things. Watching the news, buying food, spending a day out – these things became more complicated. For me it was a perfect foundation for a story, even if the ash cloud itself was always in the background.
I also often begin with general ideas I want to explore, and a sense of who the people are who will help me to explore it. I rarely have a strong idea of plot. I’m more interested in letting the characters observe themselves, the people around them, what changes are happening and why. These days, I tend to write a lot about memory/memories, personal histories, navigating a space as an “other,” and the way relationships change without people noticing. When I’ve been thinking of something it comes out in my writing over and over, whether I plan it to or not.
Thank you to Kali for inviting me to answer these questions – it was fun! I’d love to read anyone’s answers to these questions, but I nominate Jane, Leesa and Lindsey.