My writing life: Agonize, revise, repeat

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now, ever since Lauren asked me if I wanted to participate in the blog hop. As is my m.o., I immediately felt weird and guilty about participating. I mean, writing about my writing life assumes that I am a writer. (Or that, you know, I have a life.)

I always thought that I haven’t suffered enough to be a writer. So I didn’t write for a long time. I imagined that I would have to be an orphan, or have lost so much, or live in 19th century Paris in an Absinthe-induced haze to be a REAL writer. I still think that a little bit, but strangely motherhood seems to provide all of the ingredients I thought are necessary for writer-hood: the pain, the loss, the re-examination of one’s life and values, and also the haze and fog of worry, sleeplessness, and wine.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

1. What am I writing or working on?
I am working on a longer piece about being an immigrant and there are bits and pieces of things floating around in my head. I am lucky and unlucky that writing is not my livelihood. I have no pressure to write and produce constantly, but that also makes it hard to keep things going. I belong to an amazing writing group and our monthly meetings are my deadlines. I have a full-time job and a kid, so writing often takes a back seat to all of that. But I am trying to take it — and myself — seriously and allow my writing the time and space it deserves.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Does it? I am not sure. I feel like it’s hard for me to judge that. I’d like to think that being from another country and writing in a second language might give my writing a different flavor, a different perspective about parenting and life in general. I try to be honest and real and I try not to be judgmental. Some days it feels like there is so much hate and judgement out there, especially online and especially on parenting-related topics. At least us, mothers, should give each other a break.

3. Why do I write what I do?
I write a lot about motherhood and about things lost, or the way things could have been. It’s therapeutic in a way, a bit self-indulgent. But then I always find that so many other people relate to my story that maybe is ceases to be self-indulgence. It’s such a comfort to know that I am not alone in something and also to know that through putting words on paper I was able to make someone else feel less alone.

I want to write for the sake of writing. Is it an amazing feeling when something gets published? Absolutely. How does it feel when a piece on The Huffington Post gets thousands of “likes?” Fabulous. Do I like to get 60 new Twitter followers in under an hour like I did with this fluff? Oh, yes.

But those things are so short-lived and fleeting and definitely not enough to keep me working hard. Writing is messy and sweaty and not glamorous work. Clicks and likes will never be enough to justify the pain of throwing up on the page. There has to be more.

4. How does my writing process work?
This is where I feel a bit like a fraud. What is my process? I have no idea. I am sure real writers have some sort of a trusty system, notebooks, outlines, plans.

For me, it works like this: A thought pops into my head — an image, a sentence, a question. I sit on it for a few days, playing around with it in my head, or I just dump it on the page and then sit on it. I agonize. I revise. Repeat.

And that’s that.

An awful lot of trust has to be put into this “process” that an actual idea will indeed pop into my head. Something always has and I have to trust that something always will.

I write — like now — in bed while my son naps next to me. I write during Food Network Chopped marathons in the evenings. I type quick notes on my phone when something comes to me late at night. I write when I am happy, but I write even more when I am sad.

I write on my laptop, but I have an unhealthy relationship with stationery. Notebooks, specifically. And pens, of course. I don’t write that often by hand, but I find great comfort and inspiration in empty, crisp pages, the scratch of a pen, just the possibility of the two of them coming together and creating something magical.

I still view writing as a gift. Sure, there is work and skill involved, but whatever that initial spark is, is surely a gift.

***
And now to pass on the baton… What is so fabulous about being a writer in this day and age is that a real, living, breathing writing community is right there at our fingertips. I have “met” so many amazing writers in the past year and their advice, guidance, and support have been invaluable.

So check out three writers who are new to me, but who do not feel like strangers:

Miller Murray Susen is a hyphenate whose enthusiasms include acting, directing, writing, teaching, and child wrangling. She blogs intermittently at www.amomynity.com and twitters more frequently at @A_momynous

Kris Guay lives in Franklin, Massachusetts, with her partner and two teenage boys. Find her at her blog Life With Teenagers or read her essay in Full Grown People or her recently published poem in Corium Magazine.

Susan McCulley is a mindful movement educator and a Black Belt Nia Instructor who has been dancing and moving, traveling and teaching since 2000. Her blog, Focus Pocus: The Magic of Inquiry and Intent, is dedicated to taking body~mind practices from the studio into life. Her essays have been published on Elephant Journal, and she is working on a book. She lives with her husband in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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14 Comments Add yours

  1. omnimom says:

    I LOVE THIS. What a perfect unveiling of your process, and yes: it *is* a process. These insights particularly resonated with me:

    “I always thought that I haven’t suffered enough to be a writer…but strangely motherhood seems to provide all of the ingredients I thought are necessary for writer-hood”

    “Clicks and likes will never be enough to justify the pain of throwing up on the page. There has to be more.”

    “I don’t write that often by hand, but I find great comfort and inspiration in empty, crisp pages, the scratch of a pen, just the possibility of the two of them coming together and creating something magical.”

    What a treat to learn more about you, Zsofi. As ever, I look forward to your next great thing.

    1. zsmc says:

      Thank you, Lauren! This means a lot to me, especially coming from you! When I grow up, I want to be a writer just like you.

  2. Sara Bir says:

    I happily await your essay about your immigration experience. Zsofi, you are a wonderful writer, and I am impressed that you can pull off writing while your son naps in bed next to you. I can’t even quietly read next to my napping child!

    1. zsmc says:

      Thanks, Sara! It is a rare occurrence, but it does happen. I am not sure what I am going to do once he gives up napping!

  3. Zsofi, this is lovely. I’ve been mulling a lot recently about how much of my identity (too much) is wrapped up in my writing “success” or lack thereof. You’ve articulated a lot of this tangled identity so well. I always love reading your work!

    1. zsmc says:

      Thank you so much, Antonia! And I love reading your work too!

  4. Nina Badzin says:

    Yes:—–> “Clicks and likes will never be enough to justify the pain of throwing up on the page. There has to be more.” That is so true and well said.

    I have/had the same issue as you in feeling that I had not suffered enough to call myself a writer. We all have stories to tell though. And I have a hard time answering, as well, what makes me different. I think your experience moving to this country absolutely add a unique slice to your motherhood stories and all the work that share. (Still figuring out what makes me different though!)

    1. zsmc says:

      Thanks for your comment, Nina. I think what’s just “normal” to us can seem different/exotic to the outside world. You are right — we all have stories to tell and no two stories are alike!

  5. Debra says:

    “I am lucky and unlucky that writing is not my livelihood.” I can so identify with this Catch-22. Lovely post, and I also just realized that you wrote an essay I loved on FGP–“Real Estate”! So glad to have met you through this ‘hop’!

    1. zsmc says:

      Thanks so much! It’s nice to meet you too! 🙂

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