Writers amongst other artists have the amazing ability to challenge, question, critique and explore our society.
– What do we believe as a people?
– Why do we believe this?
– Is there another way?
Many individuals have mixed feelings about writing about controversial topics and taboo subjects. There is a part of me that relates to that and wants to keep the peace, not rock the boat, and ensure everyone is happy. That’s the boring side of me though and she often takes backseat to the other part that’s BOLD and COURAGEOUS.
I want my work to matter and because of this I need to write about what matters to me first and foremost. My topics often seen unpopular or reflect a concealed part of accepted human behavior. For example, for the last two and a half years I have been writing about the death of my son, managing grief and finding healing. It never fails to amaze me how these topics make people uncomfortable – unless they have lived through them. People who have lost a loved one speak my language and I to them. Those are the people who I write for with this focus on bereavement.
The different topic I’m embarking on with my new writing at the moment is also somewhat taboo yet equally important I believe to bring into the open. That’s what I care about: opening up topics that should be talked about, breaking the silence. I ask myself all the time: Why are these things hidden? Should they be? What will happen if I talk about them? Will I tarnish my reputation? Spontaneously combust? Will my work be accepted? How can I change the world?
Here are four principles that provide internal navigation for me in writing about difficult subject matter:
– When you are just beginning to write, do not think about who will read your words. Write from the heart.
– Tell the truth. The truth is scary but needed in our day and age. Your work will matter and stand the test of time if it reflects the time it which was penned.
– If it matters to you, it will likely matter to other people. They are who you write for.
– If it crashes and burns, who cares? You only live once and might as well give it all you’ve got.
What helps you when you have a challenging topic on your mind? How do you get your thoughts down on paper and out into the world?
There are so many things I love about grad school. The keener in me jumps for joy, for one. I absolutely cherish the immersion in my passion for creative writing and the challenge to improve. The interesting thing I’ve discovered is that this improvement has seeped into every area of my creative practice as writer, artist and human; how I read books, the way I appreciate art, the descriptions I chose when telling my friends about a really amazing experience.
The reading part is one indulgent pleasure of school. Oh boy, I sound like a nerd – but I love that I have an excuse now to brush off other things to curl up like a cat and read (although I’m more of a dog person). At my school residency in June, a friend introduced me to the Harvard Co-Op Bookstore. It was two levels of row upon row of books. Pure eye candy.
I never thought I’d compare the spines of books lining the walls to a great work of art – but they are sublimely beautiful to me.
I’ve always loved reading, from as young as I can remember. Summers were spent cradling the pages of novels throughout the warm days till I went cross-eyed every night. And what else is there to do in winter for someone who hates being cold? I have an almost photographic memory and because I imagined all the stories I read, I can still see many of them, like movie clips in my mind.
As a memoir and personal essay writer, I read a lot in these genres. There are many sad stories out in the world. Maybe this is because the challenging moments define us and reveal the people we are, that at the core of the human experience we want to become our best, most happy selves and thus we search for meaning. My first memoir, which is so close to the finish line in editing, is a challenging story. What I’ve starting to work on now is more cheeky and definitely more scandalous (wink, wink) – but in the end they are two stories that connect. One could not have been without the other.
Right now I’m taking a needed break from reading memoirs to delve into short stories. I love the short story form. There are so many craft techniques that jump out at me. Currently I’m working my way through The Best American Short Stories of 2013 and up next is the Best of the 21st Century… which is a mighty large volume.
Writing speaks to the reader, it calls to the child in us who read for pleasure before life got busy and complicated, it plants new ideas and waters the old ones. Writing sings.
What does good writing or your favorite book do for you? And please, please tell me about your favorite book stores and which worn spines decorate your walls like art.
Happy reading day!
First of all, welcome guests to my new writer & author website! It has been a serious labor of love getting this site off the ground and I am so thankful for my amazing husband who devoted countless hours to learning code and making this dream a reality. Thank you Aaron!
Now, onto exciting business! My friend and fellow writer, Sabrina Fedel, challenged me to the “My Writing Process” blog tour. Sabrina is a MFA in Creative Writing Alum from Lesley University, where I am currently a grad student. Was I up for the blog tour challenge? Absolutely!
1. What am I working on?
I am on the final leg of editing my memoir about my pregnancy following the death of my second child. Editing this book has been challenging because I must constantly place myself back in the midst of an emotionally devastating time of my life – but I’m almost done! I am also working on essays for multiple publications including my ongoing column in Flurt Magazine. I write a great deal every single day and in a wide range of topics from art, grief and healing, self-esteem, the writer’s life, social commentary and profiles on interesting people. Not to mention blogging: www.AlexisMarieArt.com, www.WantedChosenPlanned.com, www.AlexisMarieWrites.com, and soon www.AlexisMariePhoto.com – I blog a lot! I find all this writing exciting and the variety refreshing. Also in the mix, I am in the planning stages of my next book… but more on that in months to come.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is the single most important question that every writer must define for themselves in order to be a success.
Regarding my current memoir, I believe what sets my work apart is its raw authenticity and vulnerability. I show myself at my worst; the darkest moments where I struggle and fail as a human being as I mourn my child and wrestle with my marriage and faith. It is scary to imagine others reading my book because it exposes so much, but at the same time I believe that the honesty I portray will resonate with others who have also lost a child and those that have experienced any kind of trauma. In the end, I hope this vulnerability will inspire and help readers as they navigate their own path to healing.
In the other writing that I do, the articles, essays, reviews, interviews; I believe my work makes people stop and ponder and even just laugh at life. These things are essentially me and are traced along each letter of every piece of my work.
3. Why do I write what I do?
In many ways I believe my current writing on bereavement and art for healing chose me, not the other way around. When my son died, he gave me a voice, passion and something important to say. That’s why I write what I do, it’s a legacy for my son birthed from empathy for others and a desire to be an encouragement.
At the same time, I do not want my work to be solely defined by this one niche. There is a lot I have to say and these new directions can be seen in all the current writing I am doing. I will always write from the place of a healing individual, because that is who I am, but I also have a cheeky side to my new work that I am excited to develop.
4. How does my writing process work?
My process is simple, really. I have 24 hours a day, just like everyone else. I say to myself, “Let’s see how much I can get accomplished,” and make a game out of it. If I have six hours to work but eight hours worth of work to do, I push myself and see how productive I can be.
My working process is like a race; sometimes I sprint, sometimes I jog, every once in a while I walk. My bad days are a slow limp – but I am always moving. I never stop. This relentless determination is a trait I got from my Mom. There is literally no stopping me and I will never give up.
In a passion/business like writing, perseverance is key.
While challenging myself, I always strive to be positive and accept that I am doing the best I can. It’s not always easy to show myself grace and understanding. I’m a pretty strict boss and I get along quite well with the drill sergeant in me. She barks out orders because there are always a plethora of deadlines and this energy fuels me to push myself to the limit.
My office chair is always warm; I sit down and get to work. Each and every day. I don’t give myself time for procrastination. It’s this ‘focus and get it done’ work ethic that energizes me. I love the feeling I get when I’ve accomplished something and that reward is highly motivating.
That’s it! That’s my writing life in a nutshell.
So, how about you? Are you up for the challenge? What is your writing process?
(Comment below or post on your own site and then share the link here.)
Here are some of my friend’s writing processes:
I mentioned in an earlier post that I have written a book. It is one of my greatest passions and I would like to tell you a little about it.
On a side note I am presently editing the book, literally as this post flies into your virtual mailbox so to speak, I am scratching out lines, clarifying ideas and biting my nails to hone this work into the best it can possibly be.
I began writing “Expecting Sunshine” when I was pregnant with my now year old son Eden. Eden’s older brother died in my arms at birth from a cardiac tumor. Life was impossibly flawed from that moment on. When I became pregnant with Eden, after a difficult time I call my “Year of Distraction,” I realized I must deal with my grief before my next child arrived.
“Expecting Sunshine” is about the 40 weeks of pregnancy leading up to Eden’s birth. It shows me at my lowest and ugliest, struggling to let go of one child while my stomach grows with another. “Expecting Sunshine” is an ode to loss, a goodbye to innocence and a picture of the practical struggle of one woman learning to hope and believe again.
My goal is to expose my experience and the paths I traveled to find healing after loss. It has been a nightmare but in the end, love is worth it all and my sons, Zachary and Eden, and my daughter Hannah have taught me so much. If I could change my circumstances, I would without a second thought. Of course I can’t, so instead I have labored at grief and “Expecting Sunshine” is my story.
As I am new to the publishing game, I am still working out the details in the concrete matter of ‘how will I get my book into your hands,’ but I’m not worried. It will happen when the timing is right.