Oh, man. I really forgot I was supposed to do this by today. Nicole D. Collier graciously, generously, thoughtfully asked me to participate in the blog tour almost two weeks ago, and had I not seen my good friend Joshunda’s insightful response this morning, I would’ve likely gone on forgetting. Nicole is a really lovely writer and a singularly insightful thinker. She writes about things I wouldn’t readily consider. And sometimes when I’m reading Joshunda, I feel like she’s been reading my mind. I’m honored to be in their writerly company.
Apologies, y’all. I’ll try to be both brief and interesting.
1. What are you working on?
Becoming a better, more experienced, more observant, more interesting person. I’m 34 and inward to a real fault. I think my writing tends to suffer because of it. Social media, where I’m very active both for work and leisure, hasn’t always helped; my networks give me more reason to tune out of the world around me and to neglect the very necessary craft-observation of the people I encounter. I’m earbuds-in, head-down a lot of the time and I’m working most on being less invested in what’s going on in the palm of my hand and more invested in what lies without.
Writing people and places and experiences is only as authentic or credible as your witness. Imagination relies on what we can already access; no matter how little the worlds you build in your work resemble the one where we live, those worlds will be populated with ideas and people and experiences that draw on what you’ve seen and done and survived. Sometimes I feel like I’ve exhausted all my observation/experience and need to go out and acquire more… life. But every day is rife with potential, if you’re paying attention. I’m really working on that.
The less abstract answer is: I’m working on a collection of essays, having abandoned a novel manuscript.
2. How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?
Like a ton of writers/artists have already said: I don’t know that it does. I try to infuse a bit of the voice I use here at my blog — which is poetic and purple, at times — in the film, TV, culture commentary I write. These days, I feel like a lot of people are leaning more on a distinct personal creative nonfiction voice for commentary. It breaks up the “think-piece” monotony.
3. Why do you write what you do?
It’s all I’ve got. For whatever reason, I can’t access fiction, despite the fact that my MFA is in fiction writing. It’s just not something I can do quickly or well. It’s one of the most mysterious, elusive genres in which I’ve tried to write, second only to playwriting in my difficulty with it.
So I write what I can do fast and fairly well because I have a toddler and I’m her primary caregiver — which is to say I no longer have the luxury of struggling for months and years with no finished product to show for it. I can turn around an essay in four hours or less a lot of the time. It’s far more gratifying.
4. How does your writing process work?
These days I just write when, where and what I can. If it requires research, I open Google and do a cursory search. I go down the rabbit hole of long and short-form reporting both on the issue at hand and any tertiary issues that should also be considered. In the reading, I wait for the angle to become clear to me. It usually does after I’ve read between 4-6 strong, investigative pieces.
For blog entries, which I consider to be short personal essays that usually don’t require reporting, I just try to find quiet space to reflect or recollect details. Voice is very important to me here so silence, if I can swing it, is pretty important, as I need to hear the voice I’ll be using. I read aloud for flow (or try to) before hitting send or publish. If I don’t like the flow, I reword until I do.
Up until about a year ago, I was composing almost entirely on my iPhone and pen/paper. I have a particular brand of pen I prefer to use and I favor spiral notebooks. Now I have a Chromebook, and I’m using that to type this. But I still find that my iPhone-writing habit is a bit hard to break. It’s with me everywhere; this Chromebook isn’t.
That’s pretty much it for me.
I’ve asked my good friends Syreeta McFadden and Terryn aka DopeReads to do this next, but since I’m so late asking, I can’t guarantee it’ll be them. If it is, though, expect their installments on June 11.