Look! It’s my turn! The awe-inspiring, multi-talented and fellow Pacific U MFA-er Maisha Z. Johnson asked me to join her in a round of Blog Hop, where I have to answer simple questions about my writing.
Here’s the thing: with a now-omg-she’s-already-seven-weeks-old baby in my life, I could easily argue that writing has been put on the back burner–even further back (possibly now stored in the deep freezer) than when I was dealing with being pregnant (and the subsequent early 30’s identity crisis). Except that this would have been a huge lie, a big excuse, another procrastination, and another step towards denial.
Not to say that I’ve been doing the complete opposite, but it’s been a rough several months in terms of creativity and motivation, and I should just get straight to the Q&A.
What am I working on?
So I have a confession to make. When I found out I was pregnant, every incentive to be creative and continue what I left off after graduating from school completely dried up. The combination of feeling totally sick, a lot of shock, the gradual coming-to-terms with what was going on with my body and what was going to happen in my life, was just so completely overwhelming that the last thing I wanted to do was write.
I’ll also admit that I was annoyed at myself, since I have envisioned such grandiose plans of being a real writer (I mean, along with my day job)–yet, all I could do for a solid month after graduating was barf, sleep, lie down, try not to cry and barf some more. So I gave my brain a break. Instead, I watched a lot of movies, focused on my job, I focused on my friends, I focused on feeling better and doctor appointments and family, I focused on not having deadlines and on not feeling the pressure to write something that someone I respected was going to read and critique. I even stopped reading (which is why my 2013 reading list was so paltry and pitiful).
And to be honest, it was really nice. I got to experience what I secretly missed when I was in school. You know, being able to have a long day at work, then come home and just do absolutely nothing because I could do whatever I wanted. Meanwhile, there was that nagging, pretentious voice in my head that declared I couldn’t be a real writer because I wasn’t writing every day, or that I wasn’t reading or thinking critically, that I could survive a life without typing out an original sentence of fiction. Or that the past two years of my life were a complete waste of time and money.
But hey! I’m back! It’s odd. The baby arrived and aside from the first couple weeks of a total emotional roller coaster (geez, and I thought morning sickness was bad), I felt that itch to read again. And I started thinking about writing, or things that I could write. I emailed my thesis advisor again, who told me to get my ass into gear. I actually started submitting pieces again (let’s keep the rejection letters coming!). So I’m happy that I can kind of actually answer this question: I am working on stuff.
I’m revising the stories I never finished during school. I’m trying to weave in layers of the past 10 months of my life, because I don’t want to gloss over all the stuff I went through. I’m enjoying the chubby warm body snuggled in my lap (for her fifteenth nap of the day). I am working on everything.
How is my work different than others in its genre?
I think it’s weird that people classify their writing into genres. I used to want to write fantasy, then YA, then modern fairy tales, maybe some fabulism, and then as some sort of Asian American voice. Then I felt like I was just mimicking what I thought stories in those genres were supposed to be like. So right now, I’m saying that my work is different because I write what I find interesting, and not how it fits within a category, audience or objective.
Why do I write what I do?
When I told my advisor’s wife that I was going to have a baby, she wrote me the nicest and best thing anyone could have told me at that time:
This is perfect timing. I absolutely believe that the Muse is always delighted when a new little reader (and potential writer) is on its way into the world, and, who knows? You may find that that brain fog that comes with getting up all through the nights for feedings might produce some amazingly creative stories! Either way, this is a great time in your life.
At the time, I was like “HAHA, yeah. Thanks. BYEEEE. My life is over. See you on the other side.” But now I’m realizing how right she is. All during school, I struggled with trying to find some sort of authentic, emotional connection with my writing, with my reading, with everyone else’s work. There was always some sort of detachment because I felt like I lacked the proper experience, or that my somewhat placid and cushy life didn’t give me the same depth that everyone else was achieving.
But now I think I get it. I write to figure that all out and to validate my own experiences. I write to express what I feel and see around me–and to better understand what it means to be human.
How does my writing process work?
Since I’m on leave, a lot of my writing starts in my head when there’s a quiet moment. That’s usually a couple hours a night when the baby is swaddled and sleeping next to me, the lights are out because B has already passed out next to me, and the clock reads 9:45pm because we go to bed insanely early now.
During the day, I read as much as I can (I’m finally tackling all those literary journals that I subscribed to last year) and think about how the stories stand on their own and how the ones in my head can stand on their own. More importantly, I’m learning to hold myself accountable for writing, because no one else will!
It’s still incredibly difficult to find a moment to sit down and type away, but having at least five word docs open on my laptop count, right?
Wish me luck.
PS. My dear friend Killian also participated in Blog Hop. Read her answers here!
Maisha Z. Johnson is a writer, an activist, and a troublemaker of Trinidadian descent. She has an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University, and she studied creative writing at San Francisco State University. Through writing and workshops, Maisha lifts up voices of those who are often silenced, including LGBTQ people, people of color, and survivors of violence. Her work has been published in numerous journals and nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize. She explores the relationship between art and social change on her blog, at www.maishazjohnson.com.