I’ve seen this now in three places and I hope to see more of it. This is Questions for Writers. Kristen of Little Lodestar began it and I’ve now loved reading Lindsey’s and Nina’s answers. And here are mine.
I often have these same questions, wondering about other writers. It sometimes feels like everything we do is just out there, in the open, for everyone to see. But there is so much that happens privately. So many decisions we make and things we grapple with in the quiet of our own writing spaces and I love when we come together and share those things.
So here are my answers to Kristen’s writing questions. If you’re a writer, share yours, won’t you?
1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet?
I almost never share pre-published work with him. I used to share it with him, looking for feedback, and then I’d get too antsy and not want to wait for him to respond and so I’d just go ahead and submit, usually before he’s even seen my email. The first time I did that, I won runner-up in an essay contest so I decided it was good luck. (The only exception is if I mention him or something that is slightly more personal to our family). I do share published work with him and, most of the time, I think he reads it!
2. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback about it?
Very recently, my family (mom, aunts) began to read my blog and my published pieces and my closest “friends in real life firs”t also devotedly read everything I write. It’s rare that they will give me feedback but when they do I take it very much to heart. These people know my heart and there is always a reason why they are bringing something up. (Like the time one of my closest people told me that she had been wanting to say something to me about how I had gone on sort of a depressive note on my blog for a while. She was nervous to bring it up and waited until I had swung back up to the positive again but I appreciated that she said something!).
3. What do you do with the pieces that continually get rejected–post on your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let it go?
I’ve had one piece rejected twice over and that piece is dead to me now. Ultimately, I don’t think it was all that good and didn’t really reflect me or my writing, which is probably why it was rejected in the first place. I don’t usually take rejection as a judgement on my writing, though, and if I really loved the piece, I would probably post it on my blog and then maybe try to get it in somewhere that accepts pre-published work to get it a little more of the exposure I had planned for it.
4. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?
I typically write with a goal publication and a runner up in mind. I like thinking ahead to what I’ll do with a piece if it is rejected by my first choice of home for it. I pour a lot of my heart and soul into my words and it’s important to me to give them every possible chance before retiring them.
5. What is your main source of reading-based inspiration (especially you essayists)? Blogs? Magazines? Journals? Anthologies? Book of essays by one writer?
Everything! Definitely other blogs, though I read less of those these days. Essays, particularly narrative memoir types of essays that make it into magazines, are big for me. I flip to those almost immediately and devour them, even if the topic is of no interest to me, just so I can study the craft. I had put all fiction aside for a while, focusing just on memoirs and essays and blogs because I thought I needed those to help me get better. But in the second half of this year, I began reading fiction again and found that it really does inspire me and when studying the craft of fiction writing, so much applies to what I do.
6. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?
Definitely what I see/hear in daily life. I often compose stories in real-time, grabbing onto a moment and wanting to dive in deeper. This is where my writing comes from.
7. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so underappreciated?
This may be a cop-out but I always believe, when I find brilliant people, that I am the last to have found them and they are already well appreciated and celebrated. That said, I know there are people in my circles who sometimes struggle to get their words read and published where they want them and their writing is so beautiful and needs to be shared.
8. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”
Ugh that is tough when you exclude all those!!
I loved Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers. She really helps you dig into memoir writing and gives truly amazing examples that stick with you. Less about writing but all about creative craft more generally, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life is also a favorite. I haven’t finished it yet but she describes artist’s perspective in one of the early chapters and I understand so much better, now, the way I approach my work, which is a very freeing thing.
9. Have you ever regretted having something published? Was it because of the content or the actual writing style/syntax?
There are so many pieces that I go back and read and think, “Wow. That is truly awful. Why did anyone publish that?” My writing style has changed (and, I hope, grown!) over the past several years and some of the stuff I had published in the beginning reads, to me, like it was written by me as a baby. A writer-baby. There is one piece I had published that did well and resonated with a lot of people and made people cry and feel comforted and not so alone. And I love that it did all of that. But sometimes I wonder if it was a bit too honest or a bit too revealing.