This leg of the Writing Process Blog Tour has hit North Carolina via my beautiful friend and writer, Suzanne Farrell Smith. Suzanne’s essays weave sentiment with science, humility with sin, and humor with heartache. She’s a master seamstress with words and one of the hardest working writers I know. To learn about her process, check it out here.
My day to post, March 10th, came after a weekend of surprise for my 40th birthday: a delectable lunch with my husband at a french restaurant, a party with loved ones and a night off from my seven month old twins. My last night out on the town was in December 2012! Needless to say, I was going to finish this post over the weekend, but here I am the evening of the 10th, by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin, getting my thoughts together to make the deadline. Like I mentioned to a friend a couple weeks ago, I’m doing everything by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin these days. Two babies. Need I say more.
No matter, however busy I am with the boys, keeping my fingers wet with words is a priority. Alas, a glimpse into my process:
What am I working on?
I just finished taking my full-length poetry manuscript and cutting it down into a chapbook. It reads so much tighter and I love it. I have two essays I am working on and I always write poems, or ideas for poems, or revise poems. A couple years ago I started a memoir and after one hundred pages I put it down not knowing where to take it. That looms over my head all the time. Started another new project but that is all I’m going to say about it for now. I’d like to see if it takes flight or not first.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
No matter what the subject matter, my writing finds a way to connect the everyday task to the cosmos. Poet Richard Jackson mentioned this when he introduced me at my graduate reading from Vermont College of Fine Arts, saying my work reminded him of what Gaston Bachelard calls ‘Intimate Immensity,’ a term found in The Poetics of Space. Here’s Bachelard: “Immensity is within ourselves. It is attached to a sort of expansion of being that life curbs and caution arrests, but which starts again when we are alone. As soon as we become motionless, we are elsewhere; we are dreaming in a world that is immense. Indeed, immensity is the movement of motionless man. It is one of the dynamic characteristics of quiet daydreaming.” Another aspect of my writing was pointed out by my wonderful friend and writer, Claire Guyton, after she read some of my poems: “forcing cliches into freshness is one of your specialties.” I can summarize by saying, I like to refurbish the old into something new and turn the ordinary extraordinary.
Why do I write what I do?
I write poems because I think in interwoven phrases and images. I studied the lyric poem because I wanted to say the most with the least amount of words. Most of my early writing is based on personal experience because I love deciphering the human condition and for me the best way of beginning was to decipher the only human whose brain and emotions I could easily get to. I have since branched out and I love the themes of home and architecture and family and silence and how all those things help me connect to something larger, something beyond my self. As a child I was told that simplicity is beauty and I believe that is what’s behind my desire to unearth the extraordinary in the ordinary. I don’t believe one needs to travel far to experience profundity. I started writing essays to further my exploration. I began writing because I wanted to communicate; I wanted to learn to convey exactly what I was feeling and thinking. I write because it is the most efficient path I’ve found to honesty.
How does my writing process work?
In the morning I write best yet my schedule has changed over the years due to babies and jobs and happenstance that I have taught myself to dip in and out of writing throughout the day. I listen to Philip Glass when I am deep thinking and to Charlie Parker when I am whimsical. The rest of the time I listen to silence. I prefer to have a window for gazing. Place is important so I return to my desk every time I write. I find comfort in having a permanent space for my writing and I require comfort. Ideation happens everywhere but deep writing is only accomplished in my writing space. Attire for my most emotionally difficult material is a bathrobe. For everything else, attire is optional.
Sometimes an image or idea explodes and I freewrite until I have squeezed all I can out if it but most often a piece emerges after long thought-out musings that rattle around in my head. I try to complete pieces on recent experiences but I am unable to so I work through my feelings, place memories on the page and then allow time for the world to influence them. I walk away, sometimes for months or years. I have let pieces sit as long as a decade. There are always open-ended pieces that I dip into for revision, each piece influencing the other. Then comes the time where I am so close to finishing I drop everything else and focus on one piece at a time.
Here is where the tour feeds back on itself. Instead of continuing to a new blog, I leave you with a list of brilliant writers and bloggers who shared (or will be sharing) their process. Enjoy.
Suzanne Farrell Smith
Jennifer Haugen Koski