the process

This is an embarrassing writing selfie I took last year at an outdoor café in Cambridge. It’s part of my process, which goes something like this: Sit down to write, get up and make tea. Sit down to write, check my email real quick. Sit down to write, take a selfie of myself pretending to write. Surprisingly, after a long string of days like this, I actually manage to get an entire narrative down on the page.

But I’m going out of order. I volunteered to follow Audrey Camp on the Writing Process Blog Tour. Audrey is my Postmasters Podcast co-host, a phenomenally poetic essayist/fiction writer, and basically one of my favorite friends of all time. You can read her process post here. So:

What am I working on?

Short stories. I’m writing new ones and revising old ones and trying to imagine them fitting together in some kind of collection. This fall when I hit the alone-time jackpot and both my daughters head off to school, I plan on revising a novel I drafted last year about a young girl with epilepsy growing up in rural Montana.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Mostly, I just pillage material from stories my mom tells me. And since I can safely assume no one else is listening to my mom’s stories, it makes mine different. (Love you, Mom!)

Why do I write what I do?

Pam Houston, in her book A Little More About Me, says: “There is only one story of our lives and we tell it over and over again, in a thousand different disguises, whether we know it or not.” So I guess I’m just getting that story out.

How does your writing process work?

As I mentioned at the outset, I’m a distracted writer. It’s difficult for me to write that necessarily terrible first draft. To convince myself to not give up writing entirely and learn to make scented soaps to sell at the farmer’s market instead. But if I keep showing up at the notebook or the computer, despite my many tea & toast breaks, something very satisfying emerges—usually a year or so later, but it emerges. I send it out to a million journals to see if someone will publish it, give myself the day off, and then it’s right back to that beautifully painful beginning.

Up next on the tour:

Yasmin Ramirez at And Then…

Sarah Shaffer at Everything Rhymes,

& my lovely poet-friend, Andrea Beltran.


Write every day. Duh. Of course I mean to write every day—I always mean to. But usually, I don’t. Usually, I delude myself into believing that my  guilt for not writing somehow counts as partial writing credit. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t).

The other day, though, I read this anecdote about Jerry Seinfeld telling an up-and-coming comic to mark off on a yearly calendar each day he composes jokes so that he could see his chain of progress. His advice, put simply: “Then just don’t break the chain.” For whatever reason (probably something to do with my insatiable urge to check things off, thereby giving my life the illusion of quantifiable meaning), this triggered a serious response in me.

I printed off a yearly calendar and decided to write 1000 words every day. So far, my chain of X’s is unbroken. I’m on day 21. Most of it isn’t pretty. I mean, this stuff is in for some serious revision. But the words are there. Existing in the world. And every day I know what lies ahead of me. I’m not sure if it’s the chain or the word count, but I’m onto a very healthy compulsion here.