How I Write

I’ve been tagged to write a post about my writing process as part of a blog hop or tour or something like that. I’ve enjoyed reading other people’s posts about their process. Some of them have been useful and given me ideas for how to better structure my approach to writing. And many of them have given me a sense of relief, seeing that others battle similar writing demons.

What are you working on?

Um, I’m writing this blog post. What kind of question is this? Am I supposed to be working on multiple writing projects? WHY DO YOU MAKE ME FEEL SO INFERIOR?!?

How does my work differ from others in my genre?  

I have no clue what genre I’m in, but two weeks ago I was pondering post ideas. I have been overwhelmed lately with a variety of parenting-related things that I knew had the potential to be relatable posts. But instead I wanted to write about chickens. I could not let it go. I thought about that chicken post for DAYS. Frightening, I know.

So I guess you could say that I tend to be attracted to the random and absurd.

Why do I write what I write?

I love anything that makes me laugh, so I typically write about things that make me laugh. I am my own best audience. Often times I am also my only audience.

How does my writing process work?

Lately I can barely manage to eek out one post per week. I am really struggling to find the time to write. I don’t want to blame my kids, but it’s totally their fault. (Ok fine,it may also be due to my lack of process. I’m working on it.)

I tend to write either during my daughter’s nap (increasingly short and rare), or after the kids go to bed. I am not a morning writer, despite my best efforts. But I’ll keep trying, because I love the taste of coffee and failure.

I have two styles of writing – the overthought, overworked post (a la the chickens) which can be painful for me, or the underthought, underworked post (a la everything I wrote during NaBloPoMo in November) which can be painful to read.

As much as I don’t want this blog to be a diary about the nachos I ate yesterday or the shitty haircut I got (again), I did like how the deadlines of NaBloPoMo forced me to write every day. Because I tend to lack self-discipline. If I can postpone a post, I will.

And yet I get angsty and sad-faced when I don’t write regularly.

So I am toying with the idea of giving myself fake deadlines and committing to something like two posts per week. I realize this is not a recipe for superb writing, but I can’t work on my quality without having any quantity. It might be my summer writing experiment. See you in September, said all three readers.

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Thanks to Leigh Ann for the prompt. I’m supposed to tag two other people to do it too if they want, so I’m tagging Christine from Naptime Writing. She is a thoughtful writer who has a magical way of stringing her words together. She was also just named a BlogHer Voice of the Year. I’m also tagging Lillian from It’s a Dome Life. She’s a talented artist and one of the first bloggers I met online.

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How to make an impression

I went to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop last week with 300+ people I had never met. Surrounding yourself with strangers for three days is an excellent way to test your social skills.

Overall it was an amazing experience. I learned a lot, I was inspired, and I met some truly kind and funny people including Leigh Ann, who convinced me to attend. She wrote a great recap of the event here. I admit I was pleasantly surprised to discover that so many of the people I’ve come to ‘know’ online were even more likeable in person. The internet has normal people in it!

I was leery that I wouldn’t measure up to the experience of other writers in attendance, but I did my best to convey my expertise with opening lines like, “I have a blog and a really shitty Facebook page.” This is how I actually introduced myself. Twice. Fortunately I had the wisdom to stop mentioning my abysmal Facebook presence by Day Two.

I finally hit my stride on Day Three when I sat next to a nice woman during a workshop session. She was polished, poised and professional and I enjoyed chatting with her. I gave her my business card, sat up straight, and did a decent job explaining my background. At last maybe I, and others around me, could begin to take me seriously as A Writer.

Once the session got underway, the moderator gave us all 60 seconds to write a list of words we thought were funny. He encouraged us to be creative – any and all words were welcome!

I fought the thick haze hanging over my brain and managed to scribble 5 words. I knew they were lame, but at least I wrote something.

Then the moderator instructed us to share our words with the person sitting next to us, who would have to use them in a sentence.

Oooh sweet mother NO. Abort. Fake an injury. Find the nearest exit immediately.

No more than 10 seconds after I had just begun to feel like a grown-up, I had to reveal my award-winning list of words to this poor woman. My list looked like this:

words

Hello my name is Amy and I am 12. I felt so bad for my partner that I only shared my first two words – as if I were doing her a favor by forcing her to write a sentence about moist panties, and nothing else. I can only imagine how troubled she must’ve been by my thought process.

It was not my finest creative moment, but I have never been quick on my feet. And while I stand behind my belief that ‘boobies’ is a mildly amusing word, I would like to redeem myself a tad by saying that ‘moist’ is a word I have always disliked. I have no idea why I wrote it down, other than I was in a state of panic. Surely if I had been given three hours vs. one minute, I would’ve come up with words more like kerfuffle, lutefisk or blarney. Right? RIGHT? But I didn’t. Because I’m me.

And that was one of my favorite takeaways of the workshop – be true to yourself, your voice and your humor, regardless of what everyone else is doing. The additional lesson for me? Always have an emergency exit strategy. The lesson for everyone else? Whatever you do, do NOT sit next to me at a workshop.

So you think you can write

Next month I’m attending my first ever blogging/writing-related conference – the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Ohio. It’s an event for humor and human interest writers. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also a little unsure about the whole thing. There will be people at this event who get paid to write – for blogs, media, books. They are legit and profesh. I, on the other hand, have written more than 10 blog posts about a masked baby doll.

She's pretty much my third child at this point

She’s pretty much my third child at this point

A very large portion of my brain has been questioning this decision since the moment I registered. I think that’s why I’ve had a mild case of writing paralysis lately. I love to write and I love to laugh, but it’s hard to justify that as something worthy of a cross-country trip with travel expenses, not to mention 3+ days away from my family. Especially when I have never left my kids before and OMG I HAVE NEVER LEFT MY KIDS BEFORE.

But at this point I need to quit doubting myself and embrace reality because I bought a non-refundable plane ticket. Ain’t no stopping me now.

The main reason I’m going to the conference is to learn and be inspired. I tend to look at writing as my guilty pleasure. My secret pastime. My excuse to tell fart jokes on the internet.

But the truth is that I often enjoy writing silly stories more than I enjoyed my 13-year career. And I invested a lot of time, effort and energy in that career. So why not put a little effort into my writing? After all, maybe there’s a better way to tell a good fart joke?

Ok, so perhaps I’m a little confused about why exactly I’m going to this conference and what I will gain from it.

But I do know this – writing is and has always been a passion of mine, and I blog because it’s fun. Going to this conference feels indulgent and selfish and weird and exciting, but I’m not going to overthink it or beat myself up for being a small fish.

Instead I’m going to soak it all in, appreciate the opportunity to meet and learn from people with similar interests, savor the chance to get a full night of UNINTERRUPTED sleep, and enjoy meeting fellow bloggers in real life for the first time (including Leigh Ann, who convinced me to attend. If it sucks, it’s all her fault. I kid!).

And if I start to doubt my reasons for attending, I will remind myself that I do have at least one legitimate, non-Creepy Baby piece of writing to author.

A few months ago my mom mailed me an obituary she had cut out of the newspaper. It was for a woman named Margaret who passed away at the age of 92. I didn’t know Margaret and neither did my mother, but she sent it to me because she thought it was well-written and peppered with an appropriate touch of humor. She wanted me to see it for reference, to serve as an example of the tone and content she would like in her own obituary – which she has tasked me with writing.

To be clear – my mother is healthier than I am. She just has a deep appreciation for good writing, a morbid desire to plan ahead, and a disturbing fascination with tributes to dead strangers. I don’t foresee needing to pen her obituary anytime soon, but given how important it clearly is to her that I get it right when the time comes, I think it’s only prudent that I attend a workshop on ‘human interest’ writing.

So you see? I kind of owe it to my mother to attend so I don’t let her down. And because I couldn’t find a conference for obituary writers.

The obligatory NaBloPoMo recap

You have to write a recap of your NaBloPoMo experience in order to get paid for doing it, right? Mama really needs to get that paycheck before Christmas, so let’s get to it.*

I did NaBloPoMo for the following reasons:

1) To force myself to write more regularly and not get so hung up by my usual downfalls like overthinking, procrastinating, self-doubt and laziness.

2) Because I like adventure and taking risks.

That second one is a lie. Here is what I learned:

1) November is a terrible month to commit to writing every single day. Did you know that Thanksgiving almost always falls during November? And that public schools are not in session at all during the holiday week?? You can’t even try to bring your kid for just a little bit so you can get some writing done. They lock the doors. It’s an outrage.

So the timing was not particularly conducive to the fact that I had both of my kids home all last week, there was a huge eating holiday during which I was very busy eating all of the things, and my parents were in town. February is much better for me – please consider moving it next year.

2) Forcing myself to write something – anything – every day was both good and bad for me. I am not very organized or disciplined in my approach to blogging. Shocking, I know – take a moment to catch your breath. I tend to write when the mood strikes. And sometimes it doesn’t strike for weeks at a stretch.

To help overcome this problem, at the start of November I actually wrote out an editorial calendar with a different post topic for every day of the month. I cannot tell you how impressed I was with myself for this achievement.

Unfortunately I then proceeded to actually write only 2 of those 28 post ideas. Instead of following my own very clear plan, I opted to randomly veer off course ALMOST EVERY DAY and instead write 20-200 word posts about riveting things like donuts, nachos and puzzles. I’m sorry, internet.

However the exercise of making an editorial calendar and writing down post ideas was surprisingly productive and useful. Even though I didn’t use most of them, I now have 26 ideas sitting in my brain, waiting for their moment to shine. Many of them will probably die there, but hey – a few might make it out. And that potentially makes it easier for me to write more regularly in the future. Potentially. Maybe. (probably not)

So to recap my recap, a) I remain disorganized but will take baby steps to improvement, b) I am bad at following writing plans or prompts, and c) I ate too much last week.

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*Before I spread false information and raise hopes, I am updating this post to clarify that this was a lame attempt at a joke – there is no payment for completing NaBloPoMo. But there is a sense of victory, which is priceless.**

**I do not have the priceless feeling because I failed to write one day and therefore did not technically complete NaBloPoMo, but I still feel a sense of partial victory, which I would say has an approximate value of $7.50.