A Writer’s Creative Process

by Brenda on May 11, 2012

Inside the Writer's Mind

In answer to queries that I’ve had about my writer’s voice, subject matter, fact vs. fiction, and where I get my ideas. And is everything about me.

Your writer’s voice and is everything about you:

I write from the left side of my heart, talk as if I am an open nerve, will slice open a vein to write without reserve or inhabitation on all those emotions that are often trapped behind an organ.

I concede I write provocatively on any subject I feel passionately about and will cross boarders if the urge is strong. I will write honestly about emotions and our flaws we tuck under the mattress and pray stayed buried. I write frequently and comfortably in the ‘I’ voice, even if ‘I’ am not the subject. I will stand naked on the page if what challenges me requires me to speak as if the “I’ is me. I will bare the weight of assumptions if only to define, explore, expose, and challenge the preconceptions in a woman.

Even though this is my chosen voice—bold and brazen—I rarely confess, even to my two and half friends, when I am buried in the middle of a life’s dark abyss, if I am blue, or if I feel the weight of the world pushing me inward. I won’t and I don’t. I was raised by wolves and gypsies and was taught—aggressively as well as passively—to be tough, to not linger in the two-ringed pity pool, to not wear my knickers inside-out, to buck up in the face of adversity, and if I must whimper, to do it with dignity. I will however find a release for my angst, frustration, confusion, wonderment, anger, fear, loss, excitement, doubt, liberation, boldness, and snarky disposition, and wild joy, in my words.

I will defy my family upbringing, and write around the rule of show and not tell, in my poetry.

Do you bend the rules? Do you tell the truth? Do you blend fact with fiction?

If I am writing fiction, I will bend the facts, elaborate and be inventive. In the name of story, I will create.  When I am writing in my fiction voice I will weave into the story my own life truths, myself, people I know, events, experiences, any and everything I have tasted, touched, lived through, cried over, laughed about, lost, and buried. I will and I do. I don’t know many authors, but those I’ve read about say this is what the writer does. We gather fodder everyday in the strangest of places. The tidbits we collect appear on the page when we least expect it.

Where do you get your ideas?

I don’t have a one stop shop answer for this question.  As noted above, I steal from my own life all the time, but not in complete chunks. Rather I weave in pieces. After writing a book and reading it, not as a writer but as a reader, I realized I had written pieces of my real self into the book. The book is not my life story, but within it, there are shards of glass, snippets, and fractions of moments, which are mine. Of course, there are others in there besides mine. People I know, don’t know, family, events I lived through, or heard about, but finally at my hand, I manipulated, rewrote, even lied, for the sake of the story.

But this is not always the case.  I recently wrote a short story where the main character is writing her Christmas letter to Santa. In the letter, she talks about abuse and a murder. I have no personal experience with either and have absolutely no idea where the story came from. I sat down at my desk and out the story came.

What about writer’s block?

Sometimes when I am stuck in my mind or a moment I can’t get out of, I write open letters to the universe.

Being a hostage to my thoughts is my version of writer’s block. It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about because I do have endless flittering thoughts racing around in my mind, crashing, drifting as a sporty ten-second car does around a curve, but the string of thoughts and the solitary words interlock, forming a chain of potential. It stays only that, a possibility of more, until I am unstuck inside. This is writer’s block Brenda style. To resolve, I sit my butt in the chair and type until the words break free. The letter to Santa is a good example of untangling my thoughts and getting over myself.

Thanks for the questions.

 

What kind of writer are you? Do you have an opinion on any of the questions asked of me?

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly Hashway May 11, 2012 at 6:48 pm

I blend my own life with the fiction I create, too. I think maybe everyone does it to some degree. Maybe some do it subconsciously.

I had to laugh when you said an agent found something your character did unbelievable and it was based on truth. That always seems to be the way. I’ve had betas tell me things (that really happened to me and I ended up writing about) wasn’t believable. LOL. It really happened. Life is sometimes more unbelievable than fiction.
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Brenda May 12, 2012 at 5:23 am

Kelly, I don’t know how a writer doesn’t blend both, but then I’ve written entire stories and poems that have nothing to do with me. I was to stunned by the agent’s comment, to be honest, but I guess that’s another one of those things we learn along the way. It was just funny because what she said was implausible was TRUE. Oh well…her loss, she’ll never know how amazing Stella is.

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Helen W. Mallon May 12, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Just to be a fly in the writing ointment…I wonder if comments like that come because we know that fictional events are structured by an author we can complain to, whereas life is random. If there’s a Writer God puling the strings, the story action must be justified in some way (eg., true to the character’s motivation, true to the way thunderstorms behave, stuff a Starbucks manager can get away with saying to a customer, WHATEVER) In life, you can’t say: Nope. Sorry. I don’t believe it. Couldn’t have happened!!!! I mean, you can, but that’s why therapists will never go out of business…
Life gets to be whatever it wants. Writing is so hard because we have to make the artificial world look like the real world, which is a whole lot more capricious than fiction. Stories help us deal with our primal fears and all that. Thanks for a thought-provoking post!
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Brenda May 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Helen-you stated it perfectly. With life there is no option. A few years back my life was stranger than fiction. I foolishly wrote a ‘fictional version’ of those events and shared it in a writing workshop. I was of course mortified at their words and about how what I had written was NOT POSSIBLE, etc., and on and on, yet, not a word on the page was a lie, it was my story word for word. It didn’t’ stop me from using my life and everything else in my stories, but when someone tells me what I’ve written is not plausible or could never happen, I stop and consider their life. Maybe they don’t get out much or live by the rules and have never had an adventure. Good thing there are some of us who have .. great comment.

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Helen W. Mallon May 13, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I hope you didn’t stay with that group!
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Brenda May 14, 2012 at 5:13 am

No, Helen, I did not. I was so hungry to be part of a writing group when I started my novel, but in the end I gave up my romantic notions and carried on alone. That sounds sad, but a writer’s life is solitary.

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Helen W. Mallon May 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Finding the right writing group is HARD. Glad you didn’t let it get you down!
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Lit Endeavors May 12, 2012 at 5:20 am

Great piece. I’m always amazed by how ALIVE your writing is. Every sentence has a life of its own. Love it!
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Brenda May 12, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Thanks, much Jennifer, always appreciate a positive word.

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Dave M. Saha May 12, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I like your style. I can relate to you in some ways and then again the essential principle of being a writer of any kind, in my opinion, is to be unique. Unique and honest. That’s what I’m trying to be. I tend to base my posts and writings on facts more than fiction, being the absolute realist that I am.

Perhaps I should try writing letters to the universe, too, though I don’t like shouting out my opinion to the universe. lol

Nice blog, and happy Mother’s day, too.

M.
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Brenda May 12, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Hi Dave – thanks kindly. The first thing I learned was to stay true to my voice. Anything else isn’t fun to write (I know, I tried). I writer for one reader, me, and if I find others who like my voice, then I’ve had a good day. So far this approach hasn’t failed me. Writer’s block – not something I believe in, but if your tangled try writing a letter (you don’t have to send it). Somewhere in the middle of the gibbering you find an opening to something you want to write. Thanks for visiting and the well wishes.

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Martha Orlando May 12, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I think it’s impossible to write without blending in something of our real-life experiences though we couch them in fictional characters. I love using family stories in my daily devotions; these seem to get the best reaction and interest from my readers.
Writer’s Block? What’s that? Seriously, I have yet to encounter it since I started the devotions. Yes, there will be some scrambling for the right verse from the ones appointed for the day at times, but I read and reread until a story begins to form. Then, well, you know the rest of the story!
Great post, Brenda! Thanks so much for sharing!
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Brenda May 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Martha – I think you’ve found a strong voice in your devotions. You always leave the reader (believer or not) thinking throughout the day. I am the sort of writer that takes it all in and use it where I need it..

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Annie May 12, 2012 at 7:54 pm

This is wonderful, Brenda. Sometimes your writing feels like an emotion that has been scraped so raw that as a reader we find ourselves soaked in the essence. I have never met anyone who makes me invest in that sometimes painful but always worthy travel through the heart. This is another perfect example of why your writing is so powerful. You leave nothing untouched, unimagined, or denied. It’s plain beautiful.
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Brenda May 13, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Annie – you and June have a way of summing up my writing in ways that I never considered and have helped me to understand and to describe my own writing, which is (not surprising) difficult for me because I don’t know what box to check. I feel the same about my ethnic heritage, but that’s another story. I can promise you I don’t sit down and say, let me write this way today…. I just write. How the words find their way to the page and arrange themselves is always a mystery. Thanks kindly, as always, for you thoughtful words, they are a wonderful Mother’s Day gift.

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Linda Medrano May 13, 2012 at 1:45 am

I love your “style” and your “voice”. You make me feel like a hack. Still, whether I do it well or not, I do it because I enjoy it. At present, I can’t write a word. I had my 17 year old cat Smokey put to sleep on Wednesday. I’m too fractured to write a word.
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Brenda May 13, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Linda – your words always cheer me up. I learned a long time ago we all have our own voice, talk in our way and reach readers through our words and voice in our distinct style. As much as you enjoy me, trust me there are many who do not. I had a time understand this when I started, but I got over myself. You are not a hack, my dear, you are a wonderful storyteller, keep on telling. I am sorry about your cat.. Try writing an obituary for Smokey. It will be healing. Hugs, for your loss.

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k~ May 13, 2012 at 4:47 am

This was a wonderful read Brenda. I always find things to savour in the words you put out on this cyber plate, but these two lines are grand: ”
I will stand naked on the page if what challenges me requires me to speak as if the “I’ is me. I will bare the weight of assumptions if only to define, explore, expose, and challenge the preconceptions in a woman.

I like the questions asked of you, they brought forth insightful answers.

As for what kind of writer I am… observant is the first word that comes to mind. Characters are the culmination of those experiences I have been touched by in some fashion or another. It might be a story I read, a dream I had (I do a lot of dream writing), a person I watched in the park, my friends and family, and even myself. We all have little things that make us who we are. I like the unique traits that make a person different one from another, while maintaining their similarities. Characters speak to me, awake, asleep, in moments when I am being still… they speak, and my keyboard lets their voice be heard.

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Brenda May 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm

K-You response reminds of Joan’ Didion’s essay, Why I Write. If you haven’t had a chance to read the entire piece treat yourself, it’s a good read and explained much to me about my writing. I’ve been meaning to ping you to see if you are interested in exchanging pages. I’ve a plane to catch home today. At mom’s for the Mday.

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k~ May 16, 2012 at 5:39 am

I will be looking that essay up :-)

I’m not sure what pinging is about (blushes), perhaps you can explain it to me after you are home again.

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k~ May 16, 2012 at 6:35 am

The essay was wonderful! :-)

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Brenda May 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I am glad you enjoyed it. I was a writer’s conference last week. I was surprised by the number of people who had never read. I was in a fiction workshop and a number of writers were tackling fact to fiction novels and wondered how to handle family reading their work and were challenged by mothers, sister, etc., saying “that’s not what happened..” I brought up the essay and suggested they not share their work with family until they were finished writing their stories. I think of this essay as my armor.

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Heal Now and Forever May 13, 2012 at 10:30 am

I love writing letters to the universe for writer’s block. I will have to try this! Sometimes, I cannot get the thought from my head into the computer, I just stare at it and it takes a long time. Next time I am going to trying writing it in a letter. I think the conversation will help get me going! Thanks for the idea!
Love,
Jodi

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Brenda May 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm

My pleasure, Jodi. If it helps pick a person you want to write to and just write. You don’t have to send, and you might find a good post or other nuggets while writing.

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My Inner Chick May 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm

***I will slice open a vein to write without reserve or inhabitation**

Ahhh, now this is the good stuff.

Love Love Love your words. XxX
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Brenda May 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Kim – you too write from a similar place.

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Nikky44 May 13, 2012 at 6:07 pm

If I was to consider myself a writer, I would be writing Biography. I can’t write fiction, I can’t even add ideas to the truth i am telling about. In fact, I have tried at least changing names in my story, even that was impossible, so I chose to use initials :)
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Brenda May 14, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Nikky, have you read the Liar’s Club? Have a look, you might find inspiration there..

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Nikky44 May 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm

I will try to get that book. Thank you Brenda!
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Elizabeth Young May 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Writing really is like a weaving, back and forth, down the years, with pen as shuttle.

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Brenda May 14, 2012 at 6:49 pm

So it seems, Elizabeth, so it seems.

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Beverly Diehl May 14, 2012 at 11:38 pm

I don’t think we CAN write without blending in our own lives, passions, thoughts and feelings, on any subject. We come to every subject with some experience or impression, whatever it is.

My voice comes through whether I’m writing an essay or fiction. (I just try to pry it loose enough to let my characters have THEIR own voices, too.)
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Brenda May 15, 2012 at 2:40 am

I like that you ‘pry’ your voice loose. I have visions of you standing over a MS with a wrench and a vice, or maybe I am seeing my dentist in my day-meres. Back to the point, I can’t see a way around our voices not slipping through the mind and finding its way to the page.

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Monica Medina May 15, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Brenda, this is so fascinating. I find it of great interest to learn how other writers deal with similar issues like writer’s block, and stretching the truth. If you ask me, it’s all about weaving our tangled webs!
And, I agree about where I get my ideas. From all over–from past experience to popular culture. Oh were it so simple to have one-stop shopping! Great post, Brenda!
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Brenda May 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Hi Monica, I have the fascination with the process. I’ve have a few private queries as of late (clearly) about my writing process and style, as we all do, so it seemed fitting to address it in a blog post. I do write a great deal in first person so there is always the assumption I am talking about myself, and sometimes I am but not always, or it’s a combination of life tumbling down and sorting through the debris and picking up pieces to write about.. if that makes any kind of sense. I use pop culture a great deal in my fiction. If you find a single shop with all the wiz bag answers and clues, please share it’s location.

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rimly May 17, 2012 at 2:42 pm

I love your direct style of writing. When I first started writing poems I was told not to write in the first person because people after reading it might become prejudiced about me but I longer to come out in the open. Like you my “I” has shards of the real me intertwined with fictional stories. I loved the way you explained writer`s block. I am sure a lot of writers will relate to the Brenda block. Unlike you I am not a very versatile writer. I write only poems that expresses most of the time my inner struggles and triumphs. I so enjoy your writing, Brenda.
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Brenda May 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Rimly, I heard the same thing about first person, and I too listened, but for me the cost was higher. I wrote my first novel in first person and told it was not good, rewrote it, and then when it came time to edit it, I realized it was the wrong story and had to rewrite it yet again. Now I do what I want and write what is calling to me. The rules people tell us to follow are only there a guidelines. A writer has to write in the voice that speaks the story or the poems. We all come to writing for our own reasons, as you write poems to express what otherwise might stay trapped. That is a fantastic reason to write, I can’t think of anything finer. And thank you for your kindness. I know I have a quirky voice, and not appealing to everyone, which worried me in the early days, but not anymore.

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