Wednesday Writers Wisdom: The Final Chapter by Jessie B. Powell
What is Wednesday Writers Wisdom?
I’m glad you asked. I originally started this series to share writing advice with other writers, especially beginning writers. I know when I first started writing again in 2010, I needed a lot of help. So, thus WWW was born. You can expect to find writing advice shared by me, other #ourwriteside authors, and guest authors. Our emails are always available for question suggestions as well. I’d like to start the conversation and answer those questions you must have answers to. After all, this isn’t just OUR Write Side, but it’s Yours, too.
Our Wednesday Writers Wisdom continues with the final part of a 5 part advice series written by the November author of the month, Jessie Bishop Powell.
Meet Jessie Bishop Powell
Authoress Powell has generously written a 5 part series for you about her personal writing process she’s gleaned from being published, being active in the writing community, and working under the daily distractions of being a mom of children with special needs, too.
Jessie Bishop Powell grew up in rural Ohio. She now lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband and their two children. She has Master’s Degrees in English and Library Science from the University of Kentucky. Jessie’s first book, Divorce: A Love Story was published as an e-book by Throwaway Lines in 2011. The Marriage at the Rue Morgue , her debut mystery, was released in hardback on Friday, July 18, 2014. The sequel to this, The Case of the Red-Handed Rhesus, will be released in November, 2015.
AS A WRITER (Part 5): The Jessie B. Powell Process
Now that I’ve explained and qualified to the nth degree that all writing advice must be taken with a grain of salt, I’m finally ready to tell you about my own process. It’s abnormal, though it dips into reality from time to time. (Just to keep people guessing.). These tips probably work best for an ADHD parent of kids on the spectrum who has another, unrelated full time job. In other words, only take this as advice if you happen to be my clone.
First, my least favorite advice: Write, but have a backup.
My reality: This one is so complicated. I have that backup. My two master’s degrees, the ones I like to call worthless, have netted me a job that gives my family stability. I’m grateful for that.
But I can’t put my writing first. I have to grade and address work concerns before I can compose, and often, my job requires the same energy as my love. If I had it to do over again, I would … I don’t know. I’m not in a position to risk my family’s stability now, and I grew up with the financial and emotional chaos partially caused by a parent whose creativity came first. My family must be my priority. But, ouch. Sometimes I want to lock myself away and write.
The advice: Write every day at the same time
My reality: I admire those who can get up early every morning to write. I do. It’s picturesque, really, to imagine a house whose silence is only interrupted by my fingers. I’ve done it before to limited success. But I can’t get to sleep before midnight, no matter what, and my best writing times are evenings, which rarely belong to me. Seriously. My kids and husband matter, and I refuse to throw them over completely. My husband picks up so much of the slack already, my guilty heart can’t make him shoulder any more.
Then, my son drags me out of bed every morning at 6:30. Between work and the kids, I’m exhausted by afternoon. To hell with evening, and to double-hell with getting up early.
I applaud the idea behind the advice. If you’re consistent, you’re supposed to reduce the intimidation factor and force yourself into life. If you set a time table, you won’t jerk around waiting for the descent of a nonexistent muse.
But I feel exactly the opposite. I don’t respond well to pressure, and telling me I must do something on a certain schedule is the worst kind of pressure. My kids require routines, and those alone murder me. When I write this way, I ultimately grind to a halt.
Instead, I write whenever I can. I crowd writing into car trips, doctor visits, and dull functions, dragging my laptop nearly everywhere so I can work if the time opens up.
The advice: You don’t have to write a lot each day to achieve your goals.
My reality: Sometimes, I only get in a couple of sentences. Fifty words, maybe, and whoopsies, life steps in. But it’s maddening, because I write constantly in my head. I don’t have a muse. Or if I do, she’s got ADHD as badly as I do. So I’m not waiting for lighting to strike before I sit. Rather, by the time I reach the keyboard, many of the words already exist, and I’m essentially taking dictation from myself.
I can sometimes hammer out 2,000 words in a couple of hours.
And then go nowhere near my manuscript for a damned week.
This is possibly the most frustrating thing ever.
I would have had the same 2,000 words if I’d typed not-quite-300 words a day in that same time period, and I’d feel a much greater sense of accomplishment. Probably. But I know better than to start writing when I have other responsibilities, because I won’t stop. I would prefer to be able to follow that damned schedule, but it’s not in my stars.
The advice: Wait to edit
My reality: Yes. But. This one half works for me. I do wait until the end to thoroughly edit my work. But I also edit as I go, because fixing an existing sentence is easier than writing a new one, and sometimes revision will jumpstart creation. I’m not always taking internal dictation.
The final advice: Don’t censor yourself.
My reality: There is a memoir I can never compose about my relationship with my late sister. Too many innocent people, people who I love, would be hurt. The story is not mine. Even my own perspective isn’t mine to tell. Not now, and maybe not ever. The best I can do is to draw upon it in fiction. And I censor the fuck out of it even then. Not edit. Censor.
“Don’t censor” encourages writers to be honest, to avoid bowdlerization. It speaks to the act of writing as catharsis. I do write honestly. And I never clean my work up for fear of prudish readers. But my back story includes details that need never to be repeated outside my home. So these characters won’t all reach the page, or even the screen. They are not mine to tell.
Which means I’ll never write it down. I am an audience-focused writer, which means I have to at least imagine a reader before I’ll commit to paper. So I guess I’d say, “Only censor if you absolutely must”.
And that’s it. As I said in the last post, my how-to guide is very short. It goes, “Listen to the other experts.” Writing is often about feeling your own way in the dark, picking and choosing the helpful tidbits and throwing out the rest.
Write well, friends. All the best.