Last week my friend, Kristen M. Ploetz, wrote a post called “Nine Things I Wonder About Other Writers.” She encouraged readers to answer in the comments, but of course I couldn’t stop myself from responding in a blog post. I know that my friend, Lindsey Mead, had the same reaction and is also answering those questions on her blog.
Looks like Kristen started a meme! If these questions speak to you, by all means go ahead and answer on your blog or right here in the comments.
As for the motivation to ask these questions, Kristen mentioned in her post that she did not get a MFA (nor did I), does not belong to a writers’ group (nor do I), and does not have an agent (nor do I). I believe the combination of those three factors made me relate to Kristen’s questions about other writers, especially other writers who also blog. I often feel like my fellow bloggers are my colleagues. We know quite a bit about each other because all of us write personal things, but I don’t know as much about other people’s processes as I might if we, say, had neighboring cubicles or suffered together in business meetings. And like Kristen, I’m curious.
So here are my answers. What are yours?
1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet?
Bryan subscribes to my blog via email. He often emails his feedback, which normally consists of a few words of encouragement and perhaps a few emoji. He does help me if I ask though. There are times when I’m stuck, when I’m way over my word count goal, or when I’m not sure if I’m hitting the right tone.
In those cases, I print out a near-complete draft, and Bryan takes out a pencil and does what I ask, whether that means getting rid of some unnecessary words or helping me clarify areas where I’m talking in circles. He’s a good editor when he’s in the right mood. For my friendship advice column, we discuss all the questions. It’s great to get the male point of view. For my Jewish pieces, he’s helpful since he’s as passionate as I am about the topics. He’s not helpful when it comes to short stories and probably cannot get through more than a page or two without falling asleep.
2. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback about it?
In the beginning, my family and friends read the blog regularly. Or I should say, more family and friends read it I’m guessing. Now, four years later, I think it’s asking a lot to want friends and family to keep up on a weekly basis. It means a lot to me when a friend emails me or calls to say a certain post hit home, but I certainly do NOT expect that kind of feedback on a regular basis. I’m just happy if family and friends acknowledge that my writing life is real, that I love it, and that it takes a lot of time. They don’t have to read my stuff to talk to me about what I’m working on, just like I don’t have to sit in their offices or homes all day to ask about their lives.
As a side note, several years ago I wrote a whole post called “How to Blog Without Annoying Your Friends and Family,” which basically encouraged new bloggers to work hard on getting an audience beyond family and friends. You simply cannot expect friends and family to keep reading your stuff and providing feedback, not if you want people to still like you. 😉
3. What do you do with the pieces that continually get rejected–post on your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let it go?
It takes a lot for me to let something go. Almost every short story I’ve ever completed got published eventually. Is that because I’m a brilliant writer of fiction? Ha, right. It’s because I’m tenacious. I keep editing and submitting. It’s taken over a year to place some stories. As for more blog-esque pieces, I have not submitted anything to new venues in a long time. I write regularly for several sites that pay me and expect work on a deadline so I’m fairly reluctant at this point to pitch pieces to non-paying venues. I would probably put a piece on my blog if it got rejected other places. I hate to throw away work, however, I did throw away my first attempt at a Hanukkah post this year. It was a good piece, actually. But it wasn’t the tone I wanted for this year.
4. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?
This question makes me realize I’m not developing enough pieces for other venues and should because I like that thrill of trying something new, even if rejection is the ultimate result. I just signed up for Jena Schwartz’s 10-day online writing group (the self-paced version). I haven’t done anything like that in ages, and I’m hoping I will produce at least one thing worth polishing and submitting for 2015.
5. What is your main source of reading-based inspiration (especially you essayists)? Blogs? Magazines? Journals? Anthologies? Book of essays by one writer?
I keep up with many blogs, so yes, I would say other bloggers inspire me quite a bit. I use Bloglovin’ to keep up and I think you can see the blogs I follow there. I’ve always loved Nora Ephron, David Sedaris, Steve Almond, and Anne Lamott. I would not say I’m a particularly funny or soulful writer so I’m not sure how those three have helped me, but I aspire to their talents. I read almost all of Anna Quindlen’s nonfiction collections this year and especially loved her most recent one, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. I also discovered audio books this year and try to listen to nonfiction, which gives me a great sense of pace.
6. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?
Oh, it’s both for sure. I can’t separate the two. I’m constantly telling Siri to remind of some idea or another so I can write it on my ongoing list later. I get ideas when I read, but I get tons of ideas just from every day life, and from things I hear on the radio. I listen to several radio shows and podcasts, including Howard Stern, which shocks everyone who knows me. He’s the best interviewer around though. No question.
7. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so underappreciated?
I’ve read tons of Roxane Gay’s work this year, but I would hardly call her under-appreciated in 2014. In the blog world, a few names comes to mind. My “in real life” good friend Julie Burton started blogging a year ago and she’s still building her audience. Her writing is wise and raw, and I’m trying to learn from the vulnerability she allows in her work. Her most recent post on turning 48 was a perfect example of what I mean. Lauren Apfel, who writes for Brain, Child regularly and edits their debate section (we used to be colleagues there!) and freelances everywhere you would want your writing to be is the kind of clear-thinking, sharp writer I hope to become.
8. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”?
Well, that list just burst my bubble. I will look forward to reading others’ answers. I’ve read some I liked, but “must have” is a label I take seriously, and I can’t think of any beyond ones from the authors you mentioned.
9. Have you ever regretted having something published? Was it because of the content or the actual writing style/syntax? (Obviously we all grow as writers and looking back at our “clunkier” writing can be cringeworthy…that’s not what I’m talking about here. I mean are there things you wish you hadn’t said out loud either because of what you said or how you said it. I’m not in this position right now, but some things I’d like to write about might get me there. And yet…how can I ignore those topics, you know?)
I don’t discuss family and politics so I guess I’ve stayed out of harm’s way. I’ve written things that were supposed to be funny that got some people really angry at me. And I’ve written other opinionated pieces about things that don’t really matter in the world (like why I hate goody bags) that also made some people mad. I wouldn’t say I regret those because they are such innocuous topics, and I’m still shocked anyone got upset. That said, there have been times I have regretted taking a snarky tone when a more gentle one would have been more appropriate.
OKAY YOUR TURN! Here are on your own blog. But remember to link back to Kristen, who wrote the questions!