Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Writing Meme

Tricia tagged me with this and I've been mulling it over all weekend, and on into the week. The idea is to identify my strengths as a writer. Hmm. My first thought was simply to replicate Tricia's list, actually--it's a good one, and other than the persistence (I have the attention span of a grasshopper) I have it pretty well covered. But this is supposed to be about me. So here are some of my strengths as a writer:

  • I like to write. Truly. It's fun for me. I've never understood the writers who find it painful. Revision can be painful--my desk chair can be painful--rejection is terribly painful. But actually putting words on paper--or, more often for me these days, on the screen--is really something of a pleasure: just seeing them form up there, and reaching for the right one, and being surprised by what comes out--that's all fun. I don't really remember ever not liking it. Don't hate me for this. I can't say that it actually makes it easier to finish anything, honestly.
  • I have a terrible memory. An odd strength, to be sure, but it means I have to write a lot of stuff down. Just recently I found some scratchings on a scrap of paper--things Nick said about his pre-K classmates. (He's in fifth grade now.) I had completely forgotten them, but seeing them brought them right back to life. I find lists, beginnings of stories, paragraphs cut from articles, and random quotations in my notebooks and on my hard drive all the time--and, sometimes, those scraps make it into something I'm working on, striking a new chord when they reappear. I also, because of my bad memory, have to do a lot of re-reading, which I find endlessly helpful as a writer. I get to see how books are put together, how writers work themselves through various situations (how do you get that character to the door? how do you segue from anecdote to analysis?), over and over again. It sinks in, even when I think it doesn't.
  • I lived abroad for six formative years: 1st through 6th grade. I like to think this has given me a bit of an outsider's perspective, even if it was now over 35 years ago. (Gulp.) I was an outsider in Japan, sure, but I was also an outsider when we moved back to the States. It's given me a sensitivity to language, an attention to difference, and a pretty good case of wanderlust, all of which seem to me pretty useful for writers.
  • I had teachers in both high school and college who insisted on frequent, brief, quick writing. My 11th grade English teacher used to walk into the room and say "Twenty minute shot" and then name a topic. She's leave to go smoke a cigarette and we'd write. I learned to be concise. I also learned to write my way into understanding a topic--if I didn't know what to say, I just started anyway, and often ended up crossing out the first paragraph and/or moving the last one up to the top. It worked surprisingly often. In college I had more than one class that required frequent one-page papers, and another one in which assignments were given at the end of lecture and due three hours later. I still love writing to deadline.
  • I come from a family of writers. My father writes a letter to all the family members who aren't at home every Sunday. I've been getting these letters since the fall of 1974, when I went away to boarding school. (And, yes, I have kept all the paper ones; the e-communiques are, I hope, archived on various hard drives and flash drives, though I can't swear to have them all.) Not surprisingly, his second (post-retirement) career is as a writer. His sister was a writer. My sister is a writer. My grandparents kept up voluminous correspondences and wrote prayers, sermons, lectures, talks--you get the picture. We might, some days, need to scale back the textual communication--sometimes a phone call really does work better--but writing is, for better or worse, what we do.
I'm tagging Caroline with this one, because I'm curious to see if hers are different from mine, and Susan, and anyone else who wants to play.

1 comment:

  1. I will think about this and get back to you!