The Writing Process
What are you working on?
Right now I’m focussing most of my time and attention on a potentially bizarre short story collection - which, I realise, warrants further explanation. I’m in the final stage of my Creative Writing MA, which involves producing a 25, 000 word document (20, 000 creative + 5, 000 critical) in a writing form of my choice. Writing short stories does feel like going against the grain for me, particularly given that when I started the degree I was predominantly interested in writing poetry; however, I now understand the importance of trying new things, so here we are…
The collection is based around gender stereotypes and how easy, amusing, and sometimes hard-hitting it can be when we subvert or manipulate them. I’m working with bizarre forms, and even more bizarre characters, so it’s proving to be quite an eye-opening experience. Ultimately the aim is to provide a collection of unconventional short stories that tell the same tales and have the same impact, and hopefully are as easy to read, as the conventional format that people anticipate finding when they pick up a short story collection. I suppose it’s somewhere between David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and aspects of Margaret Atwood’s Murder in the Dark… which will perhaps give you a deeper idea of how strange these stories are turning out.
How does your work differ from others of it genre?
I hate to potentially burst a big ol’ bubble here, but I’m not sure it does, really. The short story collection that I mentioned above differs drastically in that I’m writing short stories that don’t look like short stories, about women that people probably don’t want to read about because they make them quite uncomfortable. Putting it like that, I’m not sure it makes my writing different, as such, or whether it’s just doomed to only be read by those with a reasonably strong stomach.
Away from the collection, where I’m still writing poetry, I’m branching out from abstract and emotional nuggets of poetry and venturing into page-length performance pieces. It’s a relatively new area of exploration for me but these longer pieces, the pieces that I hope will one day be read aloud somewhere, aim to be truthful, relatable, sometimes uncomfortably accurate about humans (and our terrible decisions), but most of all funny. So ultimately, I love what I’m writing, but I’m not sure that my writing or myself are any more different than the next person trying to be a writer.
Why do you write what you do?
Pff, that’s a question and a half. I write poetry because it has always come naturally to me. I’m not claiming that at the age of five I was knocking out the occasional sonnet and working out how I could manipulate the rhythm of a poem into a musical beat, or anything ridiculous like that. But I have always written poetry, and I have always wanted to write poetry. Thank goodness, I’ve developed slightly from the days of rhyming cat, sat, and mat, and presenting it to my mother with a gloriously smug smile plastered across my chops. Now I seem to rhyme words that you ordinarily wouldn’t, before I present it to anyone who is willing to read it with an embarrassingly self-conscious smile plastered across my chops instead. Other than that, I don’t suppose much has changed in terms of why I write, or indeed why I specifically write poetry. It’s because I feel like I have to. It’s an embarrassing cliché to present this idea that people are plagued by this need to write, and I hate that cliché immensely, even though I spend a lot of my time feeling like I conform to it. Poetry is a natural thing for me, and it is often a need, to the point that there are days when I’m thinking in rhyme and I think ‘I should probably write that down’, although that is in part for fear that I’ll turn into some kind of Dr. Seuss character if I don’t.
Away from the poetry, the reason is quite different. The reason why I write other things is because I’m a young writer who has been published in nine poetry collections, but has little experience in the world of prose writing. Things such as the short story collection are for a much more deliberate and calculated reason: it’s because I don’t want to be pigeon-holed into writing one genre for the rest of my life. Much as I adore poetry, both reading and writing it, I don’t want to only be a poet. Also, there are certain things and ideas that I want to try that don’t lend themselves particularly well to poetry, which is another reason behind me trying different forms so frequently.
Looking back on the question for this section, I’m still not sure I’ve even answered it. Maybe the simple and romanticised answer for this question should be: because I’m looking for a style that sticks. Or something like that.
How does your writing process work?
If I’m completely honest, I don’t think I even know what my writing process is yet. Sometimes I stare at a screen wondering how the hell I ever convinced myself to try and be a writer, because there’s nothing for me to write; sometimes, I ditch a conversation halfway through because there’s half a poem in my head and I need to write it down before it runs. In terms of the short story collection I’m working on, I’ve been quite strict and regimented about sitting down and writing, whether I’m ‘in the mood’ or not. Typically I don’t give myself an amount of time to sit and write for, but what I often do is say ‘I’ll write x amount of words today’ and when I’ve hit that, then I’m finished. Unless there’s another five hundred words on the tip of my tongue in which case it always makes sense to carry on.
I suppose if it’s a full project that I’m working on, then I treat it like I would any other writing assignment: I plan, I write, I revise, and I work really hard until it’s finished. If it’s anything else, or just something for me, then I usually wait until it’s ready - it’s another cliché, but my poems usually come out in their own sweet time.
I wish I had a gold star or something to give you for getting to the end of this. I feel like you really deserve one. Instead, I’ll just remind you to check out the next stop on this blog tour which will appear next week from Dylan, and I'll remind you that his blog is available here. And I’ll sincerely thank you for taking the time to read this post.