Meeting other writers, listening to their work, and hearing about their process is one of my favorite things. After all, we have a lot to learn from each other. For this reason I was delighted to be asked by the wonderful Will Ford to take part in this ‘Writing Process Blog Tour’.
Although I have seen Will – a comedic verse extraordinaire – read and perform his work a number of times around Cardiff it was fascinating to learn more about his many projects and his writing process through his post, which can be found here.
Like those who have gone before me, I will answer four questions and send you on to the next writer who will be the very lovely and multi-talented Mab Jones.
Let the fun begin!
What am I working on?
Currently my life is consumed by two main writing projects. The first is a collection of poetry which aims to explore grief and father-daughter relationships. These pieces are largely autobiographical and were all prompted, in one way or another, by my father’s overdose and subsequent death last year (July 2013). Together, the poems cover a wide range of memories and situations – from the day my father killed a turkey in our backyard to being asked for money by a family member at his funeral – and will hopefully help others dealing with death through addiction. My deadline to for this collection is the end of the year, December 2014.
In addition to writing dozens of poems, I’m currently working on a collection of short stories as part of my PhD in Critical and Creative Writing at Cardiff University. Each story in my proposed collection will be based in a different country (some highlights include rural Slovakia, southern Germany, northern India, and western Lithuania) and revolve, in one way or another, around familial relationships between a daughter and one or both of her parents. The collection as a whole will be driven by these relationships as well as small moments of hope, redemption, and quiet tragedy. With a bit of luck and lots of determination I am hoping to complete this project sometime in early 2016.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I absorb, I notice, I wonder, I imagine, I consider, I hypothesize, I think. Like other writers, I observe the world with a deep love and curiosity in the hope of transforming some of it into words. All of this, coupled with my own experiences, family background, and love of punctuation means I create work that does not fit neatly into any particular genre. Instead, I write and see what comes out.
Why do I write what I do?
The simple answer is because I have to. A friend once told me that while she was in support for cancer the counselor asked her if she was feeling sad. My friend turned to her and said, simply, ‘I am not depressed. I write.’ When it comes to life writing, putting pen to paper gives me a chance to explore the darker side of living which in turn allows me to live a much lighter life.
With that being said, I write fiction (and fictionalized poetry!) for totally different reasons as it gives me the opportunity to explore my varied, random interests that would otherwise have no other practical application in my life. Why, except to create poetry, would I ever need to research the Portuguese cork tree industry, learn how to carve out wooden grizzly bears using a chainsaw, or understand the ins and outs of 1960s American activism? Writing fiction provides an outlet for all of my small, seemingly insignificant curiosities, and gives me a reason to learn new, and sometimes peculiar, things.
How does my writing process work?
I write then rewrite, over and over again. My notebook is filled with poems which are rewritten again and again, perhaps 8 or 9 times, on the same page. I make changes then I read, out loud, my favorite version and listen to the sounds of the words, figure out where to stop, take breaths. I play with line breaks and punctuation – it is amazing how much time I can spend deciding on a comma, a semi-colon, a dash, or a full stop. These little symbols are packed with meaning. Although I find pleasure and release in writing I gain my satisfaction and sense of accomplishment from editing.
Outside of these things, my writing process is haphazard at best. I have a desperate love for knowledge and my inspiration comes from many sources. Over the past few years in particular, I have discovered a great deal about myself as a writer – that I go through obsessive phases of interests (e.g. childhood trauma, domestic violence, grief, addiction, rural landscapes, etc), that I become easily attached to form and the way words look on a page, that I am equally excited and intimidated by the number of things there are to write, and, most importantly, that none of these phases, preferences, or feelings are likely to describe me or my writing forever.
At the end of the day I just try my best to turn whatever inspires me – conversations, objects, personal memories, concepts, and more – into something worth reading. The rest of the process is circumstantial and ever-changing.
Mab Jones is the first ever resident poet at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, but mostly she is a performance poet well-known for her satirical and scurrilous outpourings. She won the John Tripp Spoken Poetry Audience Award and has been a finalist/been placed in the BBC Radio 4 National Poetry Slam, the Funny Women Awards, the Liverpool Lennon International Poetry Prize, and more. She supported television’s Phill Jupitus (Porky the Poet) at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, and will do this year as well. She organises events, writes a column on monthly literature events for Wales’s biggest listings magazine, Buzz, and her first book comes out with Burning Eye later this year. “Mab is fab!” – Hugo Williams, “Absolutely brilliant” – the Guardian, “a whirlwind of lyrical delirium, her poems are smart and funny, saturated with meaning” – Literary Death Match USA
Her Writing Process Blog post will appear on May 5th . Enjoy!