Blog Tour: Taking the Lid Off My Writing Process

I recently connected with Cheryl Pallant, a writer, poet, and dancer, through a mutual Facebook friend. One look at her work and I knew she was a kindred spirit, so when she asked me to participate in a Blog Tour–a glimpse into my writing process–I immediately said yes to joining in. You can read her responses here.

IMG_20140530_084102What am I working on?

I am working on not having a concerted creative project. it’s more like my whole life is that, and this past year for me has been a lot about shedding any pressure to be working on something big. I had a realization during the last few months, that I might not do any of the things–the creative projects that are constantly floating around in my head. And I was OK with this. Eventually, I do want to explore ways to compile and share/sell my work, and I’m especially interested in playing with pairing poems with images. I trust it will happen and that I’ll know when it’s time.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think of my work as a free-for-all, in that I am not genre-bound. But the truth is, I’m a poet. What does this even mean, to be a poet? It doesn’t exclude anything, not even prose. It’s difficult for me to speak to what distinguishes my writing from others’, since this implies a kind of comparing that doesn’t ultimately serve me or anyone. What I do know is that my poems come from inside of my life, sometimes the surface, sometimes the subtext, often from the subterranean places of dreams and what’s hidden, knowingly or unknowingly.

I do not feel bound to adhere to any rules or perceived limitations of a given genre. I deeply value writing that is accessible, and am not interested in poetic pyrotechnics. Even as a kid, sharing was an integral part of writing for me. Like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, it feels more complete with that aspect of witness and connection, call and response.

Why do I write what I do?

Writing is my practice, a fundamental way of embodying my life and at the same time seeing it as part of a greater whole. There are so many threads, memory, a continuum of time and space, a kind of seeing the way these all weave together that delivers me to the present. Mark Strand’s poem, “Keeping Things Whole,” ends with these lines:

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole

Writing is my way of saying, Hineni–I am here. It helps me dispel what could otherwise feel like a kind of chaos, sometimes internal, sometimes external, and sometimes both. Nothing is disparate; writing about my life is how I come to feel the wholeness of it, which ultimately returns me to a place of presence. You could call this faith–faith that all things connect and have their place. So there is a kind of belonging and purpose to the natural unfolding of days. Ultimately, writing is how I connect the dots and connect both with myself and others.

Last week, during Aviva’s bat mitzvah tutoring, the rabbi talked about receiving. And how we cannot receive when the lid is on. Writing is my way of taking the lid off, both to empty the contents of the jar, and to be receptive to being filled back up.

How does my writing process work?

Hahaha. Process. When I am working on a project, a book, say, my process is iterative and intuitive and layered. I could spend hours and days immersed in editing, arranging, formatting. My writing process itself is pretty spontaneous, which is to say undisciplined, but consuming when I’m in it. Hours are filled with work and home and parenting and so much doing, and writing is where I land, and I almost never know where it will lead when I start. It’s a process of listening, following some invisible lead and letting the words bring me to water.

I think the writing has a life of its own, that is always happening around the margins of my days. When I finally get to sit down to write, it sometimes feels urgent, and is always a great relief. My process is to just see what happens. There isn’t a lot of thinking involved. Things build up, and it’s not that I break them down but more that I put the pieces together, find the heart that can get covered up or overlooked when I’m caught up in the busy. Practically speaking, this means needing time alone, a stillness, a slowing down to the speed of the words that want to be written. To be honest, the whole thing never ceases to be a mystery to me, and a mystery for which I am always grateful and don’t particularly feel a need to name or define.

Passing the Torch

I’ve asked these fellow writers and bloggers to play along, if they so choose!

Mani Canaday | Dominate
A creativity consultant and dominatrix of making art a business and business an art, Mani helps artists and creative entrepreneurs break down barriers to their success. She is also a true Renaissance woman, a poet, novelist, avid researcher, former midwife, exuberant student of life, devotee of beauty, fierce mama–and my beloved life partner and fiancée.

Gail Nhb | My Life’s Journey
Gail is one of the first bloggers I met online, about five years ago now. She is a woman of faith, reflection, and service, journaling and homeschooling, teaching and traveling–and a fellow lover of coffee, Spanish, solitude, and family life. More recently, the way she shared her journey through breast cancer (she calls it kanswer) treatment and recovery brought me to my knees. I am excited to say I’ll finally meet Gail with her daughter, when they come up to Massachusetts for a wedding later this month. I can’t wait to give her a real-life hug.

Holly Lash | hollybacklashgirl
Holly’s writing is honest, quirky, loving, vulnerable, and real. She is a California girl whose heart lives in Massachusetts, an elementary-school teacher, and a mom whose words often make me tear up, laugh out loud, and remind me to be nice to myself. I met Holly in person in 2009 at a day-long retreat in Sierra Madre, CA. I will always remember our walk down to Karen Maezen Miller’s Japanese garden, and how it felt like home.

3 thoughts on “Blog Tour: Taking the Lid Off My Writing Process

  1. Lindsey Mead (@lemead) says:

    Jena,
    I love this peek into your writing, beyond what I already know (and love) of it. That Mark Strand passage is marvelous. Reminds me of TS Eliot’s about how we must be still and still moving. Such interplay between wholeness and pieces, movement and stillness. I for one am immensely grateful that you’re putting your work out into the world. Thank you. xoxox

    Like

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