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Peek Into My Writing Head

A commenter on my Birth Shame post said she was tired of my negativity towards Natural Childbirth Advocates and was heading off, leaving my blog for more positive ones. I started to write a comment to answer hers, but it looked like a decent blog post, so here you have it. 

I always love reading how writers think, how they get the words on the pages and eventually to where I can read them. Every once in awhile, it dawns on me to do the same thing and I haven’t written about writing in a long time, so for other writers, enjoy (or laugh at!) a glimpse into my writing mind. For others who don’t give a whit how the words get here, feel free to move along. 

I’ll ask the questions… and then answer them. If you have others, feel free to ask.

Why do you write such negative things?

First off, “negative” is in the eye of the beholder. What might be negative to you in the “Birth Shame” post might be an enormous sigh of relief for another reader. If I tried to write something that everyone thought was positive, I’d never write another letter.

My writing goes in cycles. Tangents, if you want to describe it that way. I’ll get stuck on a topic for awhile until it exhausts itself; then I move on to something else. If you read through the blog, you’ll eventually catch the pattern: Question/Answer/Fired Up/Confusion/Peace/Move On to Another Question. Some phases have two or three posts, others can have several months’ worth of them, but I do eventually move on to other topics.

I’m not an entertainment writer. I’m a navelgazing writer. I want to know how things work, why things are the way they are. I want to hold the glass orb in my hand and look at every facet of the prism… and sometimes, the glass breaks and I have to examine what fell on the floor. As you know, life isn’t always pretty.

How do you think of topics to write about?

I read an inordinate amount of articles and blogs around the Net as well as get alerts from a variety of places, from Google to several news organizations, and every once in awhile, something jars my mind, the idea almost always comes in the form of a title. I know how strange that is from reading lots of books and articles about writing, but that’s how my head works; I’ve always been really good at writing titles… for me and for others.

I have at least a dozen ideas (titles) on Word documents at any one time, three or four open at the bottom of my computer, sitting there waiting for inspiration to hit, reminding me I had those ideas once and they lit a fire under my butt, to look at them periodically and see if anything else has jumped into my mind since then. If I have anything to add, whether thoughts or complete paragraphs, I’ll throw them on the document, save and move on.

How do you ever get anything finished doing it like that?

HAHA! I ask myself that question every single day.

Most days, I’ll “scribble” a few thoughts or sentences onto the separate pages, but lately (the last year?); I’ve gone more than a week without adding anything. The open documents whisper their disapproval, then mumble to each other that they’re going to end up in the NOT FINISHED file and, eventually, they get really loud, hollering for their lives before I eventually write something on them or get frustrated and close them for awhile. If I know it’s going to turn into something for sure, I’ll leave it open. If I feel inspiration has completely drained from my mind, off it goes into the NOT FINISHED folder.

Over time, I’ll add a sentence here, a paragraph there… and when I read an article or another post that sets off the original inspiration, I’m off and running, almost always to the finish line this time.

Do you ever write anything from top to bottom without stopping?

Rarely. And from what I know of writers, most don’t. I’d love to hear from other bloggers how they write, too. I crave knowing how other writers get their inspiration and write the posts that delight or challenge me.

Even when the words flow easily, I’ll still have to stop periodically to think… let the thoughts percolate for awhile before starting again. Mom writers have to stop to attend to life things; I’m lucky that I have the focused time if I need it, unless at a birth, of course.

And I rarely write during a birth. It’s like my writing mind is turned off. I do often jot down notes about the birth itself and if I’m permitted to write the story, I’ll take even more detailed notes, but as far as anything that doesn’t have to do with the birth I am at right then, it’s as if the inspiration faucet was shut tight.

I’ve often wished I could write a post a day and get frustrated when the posts are few and far between, but I just read a post called “On Blogging Fresh Content, Not Churning” and felt myself exhale relief the further I got in the short piece.

“Historically some of the greatest works in any discipline whether it be painting, writing or even programming have taken lots of time and patience.”

Ahhh! I’m writing great works! Well, maybe not great, but it’s true that if I “churned” out a post a day (or more), the quality would be much less. One benefit might be they’d be shorter, but my posts are usually as long as they need to be; not longer or shorter.

How do you know when a post is finished if you write so haphazardly?

There are times when, as writing, the piece moves in a different direction, one I hadn’t even considered when I started writing. This is the time when writing seems  to take on a life of its own. I don’t know where the words come from sometimes, but they just seem to flow out my fingers, my hands separate from my mind. Many writers and other artists have described this as “Flow” and the book Writing in Flow: Keys to Enhanced Creativity describes how to get into Flow and stay there so projects can get started –and completed. I can’t force flow, despite this book and others saying I can, but I love riding it when it swallows me for however long it lasts.

Even with flow, it takes all that time mentioned above to get a piece finished. When something is finally written, I read, re-read and re-read again over many days, usually separated by more days. I’m incredibly anal about spelling and grammar and hate typos, so that’s part of the trudging along, making sure I find all the problems I can. (And what is with others’ mistakes using “then” and “than” lately? Driving me nuts!)

But, when a post is finished, I just know it. I almost always end posts with one final thought, usually one summarizing line or a question, most often rhetorical.

What’s with all your commas and semi-colons?

I know! It’s out of hand, but I can’t stop writing with them. My writing mimics my speak pattern, including the pauses, the emphasis, the s t r e s s; the way the second phrase modifies the first… it’s all a part of how I speak and think. I want people to hear me and that can be so difficult in writing. For me, using a variety of punctuation and breaks helps my point be made accurately.

Even tonight, I was telling my daughter how I’d love to write copy for baby magazines, but my writing is too familiar to work in magazines. Blogs were made for my writing style and I’ve written like this since I started writing in fourth grade, long before blogs were even a thought. Like some photographers are photojournalists, that’s the type of writer I think I am… off the cuff, stream of consciousness and showing snippets of what’s happening in the world –as it relates to me (the other part of a blog… selfishness/self-centeredness). Editors would cringe to have something of mine cross their desk. They’d ditch it almost right away because of the massive amount of punctuation I use and the often made-up words like “kidlet” or laughingwink. Hey, at least I don’t put emoticons or text-speak in my posts! I refuse to do either.

Are you at the end yet?

Why, I think I am! 

Hope this glimpse into my writing style and methods helps you understand why it takes so blasted long to get a post out and why I seem to go on tears sometimes; the inspiration drives me! Sometimes it even drives me crazy.

(Here comes the rhetorical question.) And don’t writers have to be some crazy in order to write something interesting enough to write?

References (2)

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Reader Comments (5)

I heard Dr Wonderful is offically doing homebirths now. Do you know anything about this? Or is this just another rumor. I keep checking back to your blog expecting a write up on it. Anyway, your writing and stories always intrigue me, whether i agree with your point of view or not.

September 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercarrie

I'm one of those bloggers who does write top to bottom in one big. I usually resist the urge to blog for as long as I can, as I have so many things I really ought to be doing instead, and then all of a sudden I'll lose it, toss responsibilities to the wind, and blog till I'm done with an entry.

Thanks for sharing!

September 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

interesting to read about your process! keep writing!

September 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

At least half a dozen times a week, a woman, almost always a primip, will walk into my clinic, grinning from ear to ear, and announces that she is sure she is in labor. She KNOWS this, in spite of having virtually no discomfort, because she has read that, if she has a positive enough attitude, labor won't hurt. Of course, 99.5% of the time, the monitor shows no contractions at all and she will leave in a huff, exclaiming at my "negativity". So you aren't alone, by any means.

As to the way you write, one of the reasons I don't go to "creative writing" classes is that, over the years, I've discovered that everyone writes differently. If it works for you, do it, and to heck with the "experts"!

September 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAntigonos

I am not in the loop any more about Dr. Biter, so can't tell you if he's still attending homebirths. He absolutely was. I would not be surprised if he still is.

I do write any updates I find/hear/see.

September 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

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