Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour: How Things Get Done (When They Get Done)

I have the pleasure of getting to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour after being tagged by Renee from Geek Adjacent. (Go over and check out her addition to the series.)

I teach writing to students who typically don't consider themselves writers, so I spend a lot of time thinking about "THE WRITING PROCESS" in its most boiled down, PowerPoint-friendly form, but I don't always spend as much time thinking about how it works in my own life, so I'm thankful for the opportunity to do that reflecting.

What are you working on?

This blog represents my most natural audience-focused writing voice, and that's probably why it's the space that I visit most often. I'm also working on an article about feminism and fitness through a ancient Greek lens since the instruction of fitness and that of athletics often overlapped in ancient Greek culture.

But the thing that consumes most of my writing life (day and night, in my dreams, in my nightmares) is my dissertation.

If you follow the blog, you may have seen my Blogging to My PhD series, in which case you have some idea of what I'm writing about. Generally, I'm arguing that in order to improve the developmental writing classroom, we need to restore invention to developmental students and that we can best do that through agonistic rhetoric.

More specifically, I'm working on the hardest piece of writing I've ever done. I've thought about these ideas for so long that they come spilling out on the page like ink from an exploding pen. Then I stare at them and convince myself that none of it is worth writing because everyone already knows this. Then I'll argue with myself that this isn't true. Not everyone knows this; I just feel that way because I've been thinking about it so long. Of course not everyone knows this. In fact, hardly anyone knows it, so maybe it's actually important. It's at that point--that brief moment of optimism and purposefulness--that I swing back the other way and convince myself that not only does no one know about this, but no one cares. Absolutely no one wants to read this thing. It's an act of futility. I take that pendulum ride at least once a day. It's great fun. 

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I think my blogging is very informed by my academic pursuits and the way doctoral work has prepared me for research and analysis. I'm not the only person blogging through this lens (go to Sociological Images. Right now!), but I do think that it's a rare intersection of academia, personal blogging, politics, and pop culture.

As for my dissertation, I am using works of fiction as a site for exploring better teaching philosophies, and that's a pretty unique way of making an argument. In fact, it's so unique that I anticipate it being a point of tension during my defense. In my daydreams, the conversation goes like this:
The committee: "We see that you have made the unconventional choice of using works of fiction instead of actual classrooms to make recommendations for teaching approaches. Why did you choose to write about The Crying of Lot-49 and Erasure instead of simply turning to the ethnographic studies of actual developmental writing classrooms?" 
Me: "I'm a grown woman. I can do whatever I want." 
Then the dream ends as my husband interjects and says, "I recommend you don't quote Beyonce during your defense."

Why do you write what you do?

I write a lot of the pop culture analysis because I find it genuinely fun. It's like going to a playground. This series on women tearing each other down in songs was one of my favorites to write.

I also write a lot of social justice posts about race, class, feminism, and oppression because it makes me feel less powerless when I'm looking out at a world of flaws. The conversations and relationships I've built out of writing posts on those topics have been immeasurably important to feeding my soul and broadening my perspectives.

Finally, I write about education and developmental students because it is my vocation in the cheesiest, most overwhelmingly sanguine way possible. I believe in my job, and I see the opportunity to write about it as the icing on the cake.

How does your writing process work?

Some days we could shorten that question to simply ask "Does your writing process work?" In a good month, I get to say yes at least half the time.

For as long as I can remember, writing has been a part of my life. I used to write poems and short stories on scraps of paper and napkins and have them tucked into my pockets. I used to hide a sheet of paper under my notes in math class so I could write. The margins of my history notebook were filled with stories. Frequently, I will toss and turn in bed with an idea itching at the tips of my fingers and the edges of my brain. I've learned to just get up and write. It's the only way I'll get any sleep at all.

The actual process, though, depends on the work. If it's an academic paper, it's two parts the appearance of procrastination to one part over preparation. I read, read, read, read, read all of my source material until it barely makes sense anymore, marking it up and pulling out quotes, and thinking about it while I go about my day-to-day life. Then I sit down at the blank page on my computer closer to the deadline than I would like, looking like I have nothing done, but really it's all been cooking for days, weeks, even months. Then it all spills out in a jumbled mess of ideas and too many quotes with no thesis in sight. Finally, the point appears about three-fourths of the way into the thing, so I have to pull it to the top and start over. Voila. A paper is born.

Blog posts usually come out fully formed and roughly in the order they appear. They're always too long, and sometimes I take the time to go back and edit them for length, but sometimes I don't. I love blogging as a genre that allows writing to be a little more raw, a little less polished.

Passing the Baton

Now I get to tag three writers to share their responses to the four questions above.

I've decided to ask three women who I had the pleasure of meeting at BlogHer.

I'd like to hear from Cheryl of Busy Since Birth who, true to  her blog's moniker, seems constantly busy indeed! I'm always amazed at her ability to put out such frequent, meaningful posts and would love to hear how she does it.

I'd also love to hear from Kimberly of Red Shutters who currently has a great post (complete with cute pictures) on how to rock the lunchbox as we head back to school.

Finally, I'd like to nominate Kate from MammaCake who I got the pleasure of getting to know as a hilarious and extremely friendly woman. She also carries around a rubber chicken. You should read her blog and ask her about that. She recently wrote an honest, moving piece about facing depression that has stuck with me since I read it.

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