Monday, February 21, 2011

this writing thing

The hardest part of writing for me is getting started, and continuing to write when I feel like I don't know where the writing is going. I start any piece of writing by just trying to get down anything that is in my head that I think might want to be in the writing -- so my first drafts are basically just explosions of images, scenes, and ideas, with no order. I find it hard to keep going while struggling to find a sense of cohesion, but I also think this "explosion" method is the best way to get everything down in order to figure out later what really needs to be there, and how everything can connect.

The part that I really get into is when I finally have a sense of where I want the piece of writing to go, what it should look and feel like. Then I revise that explosive draft according to that sense. I can do this for hours and not even notice time passing, because I'm so immersed in the wonderful feeling that I know where I want the writing to go, and if I stick with it long enough, I can get there.

This semester I am taking nonfiction, even though my declared genre is poetry, and I am getting really excited about the memoir essay that I am working on right now. I've always tried to write in multiple genres (fiction being my weakest), and usually waver between nonfiction and poetry. What I am loving about nonfiction at the moment is how I feel like I can get into a writing project so deeply in a way that I usually can't in poetry. Also, I find memoir so fascinating because of the extensive sleuthwork involved in trying to render as a story a collection of elusive memories -- shuffling through personal artifacts like old letters, journals, photographs, and saved AIM conversations; constantly asking yourself, "Did he really say that? Did that happen in 2007 or 2008?" and trying to answer.

So this is basically to say: I'm feeling especially into this whole writing thing lately. And that's awesome.


  1. When I took a non-fic class I really struggled with it at first. Especially the memoir part. I prefer to drown my reader with fiction that may be rooted in my life experiences but still mostly made-up. Then something clicked and all I wanted to do was write memoir. I feel like that non-fiction class really made me blossom and, while even though fiction is still my "thing," my writing is better because of it. I think it has a lot to do with the memory part that you mentioned. It is the best kind of research.

  2. Yes, I love nonfiction because I find memory so fascinating -- it's so dreamlike sometimes, wondering if that thing happened just as you remember it, trying to catch memories from a long time ago that are sometimes hard to keep track of. And then how one memory leads to another one and you recall something you hadn't thought about for years.

    I struggle a lot with writing fiction -- I haven't tried in a long time because I find it so hard! I never feel like my plots and characters are believable. When I write nonfiction, I'm thinking something like "well, that's how it happened, so I don't have to worry so much about whether this is plausible," but in fiction I always feel like my characters don't feel real and my plots are unlikely... I really should try again though!