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The Writing Process of an Information-age Writer

When Chloe Jeffreys, writer, creative, and entrepreneurial friend of mine, asked if anyone wanted to be included in a pass-along writing-themed, dendriitic, sequentially shared,  blog writing prompt, I responded with a “Yes!”  Truth be know it was rather like a Horshack, “Ooow, oow, oow, pick me, pick” moment.  Fortunately, I was alone with just my computer at the time.

One of the most important lessons I am still learning in leading a writing life is to throw jealousy or competitiveness out of the window.  I’m not always in with the in-crowd,  political and tech writers like myself are not quite the most common elements of the majority of the women’s blogging community.  Women’s writing is often pooh-poohed when it reflects topics that women do talk about.  It is equivalent to guys talking about cars or sports.  But, we are there writing about every topic imaginable, just like Rosey Grier liked to needlepoint and wrote about it in the 1960s.  I may not have been first to come to anyone’s mind when they think about blogging, but I can volunteer, because I know a lot about this very diverse topic.

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I jumped on this opportunity to write about the writing process. The literary folks who are an oft overlooked part of the contemporary maker movement fascinates me.  I am a lumper rather than a splitter .  I look for commonalities that link innovation to previous incarnations of ideas.  The internet has made the mixing of ideas possible at a rate, and of a kind, that has not previously existed.  Writers are a part of this.  Virginia Woolf might have taken another path rather than the isolate ending she did, if she had been able to find unique community beyond her avocation and class so as to feed her soul.

More on the actual topic of the writing process after I explain the details of this exercise.

Chloe tagged me and a couple other folks, Linda and Rhonda.  I am writing a treatise in response to her tagging me for the challenge, in what could, and perhaps should, have been a 400 word post.  But this topic sucked me right in.  Why and how do I write?  Why and how do women write?  Why and how is writing accomplished in this information age?  Juicy nuggets.

I met Chloe through BlogHer, the first and über-successful platform, community, and advertising network for women bloggers which just happens to be having its 10th Anniversary “Selfeibration” this summer.  I coordinate and facilitate a local women’s blogging group here in Tucson, Arizona.  Tendrils of influence evidence the connectedness of social innovation and cultural trends.   So I took an opportunity offered by Chloe,  in my national network, and am bringing this meme into my local community to present three distinct writers who, each, perfectly illustrate the diversity of not only styles, but distinct types, of blogging that have totally different goals and, I suspect, methodologies – and that are being created by women, and who have agreed to participate and pass the torch on.

Suzi

 I had perused some of Suzi’s writings before she went viral.  She was a Tucson blogger and I looked at other Tucson writers on BlogHer just to see what the local competition was like.  Then, in January 2011 as we were trying to make sense out of a senseless crime, it became clear that one of the people who had been shot along with Gabby, my Congressperson, was a Tucson blogger.  Suzi’s daughter posted on her mom’s blog one day after the shooting. Lisa Stone let everyone on BlogHer know what little was known about Ashleigh’s status.  Ashleigh was the anonymous nom de plume Suzi used before being outed by the shooting.

Suzi’s husband emerged as the reasoned voice of the victim’s families.  I wanted to find out more about the woman with such an amazing daughter and husband.  I did.  Eventually I found the chutzpah to comment on her blog and tell this amazing woman that her strength and voice are lovely and inspiring.    I am so blessed  that I did eventually overcome my initial belief that I would be a vulture or a voyeur if I commented.  At first I really felt that I should just , “leave the poor woman alone” as I could hear a voice in my head, my mother’s voice, say.    I now count her as one of my friends. She is one of my REAL WRITER friends.  She inspires me. She appreciates my comments.  She makes me laugh and keeps me informed about Tucson.  She is an amazing resource, a gifted writer, and  has a really great daughter.  And boy can she turn a phrase!

 If she can keep on going with verve and attitude, then so can I, sister, so can I.

She publishes every weekday, and says she is always looking for prompts.  I invited her to participate in this writing meme-o-rama knowing she would be too busy to participate.  But sweetheart that she is, she agreed to participate.

She writes at The Burrow.

Pam

I’ve only recently met Pam who blogs at My Sassy Notions.  I see her at local startup and co-working spaces like CoLab and Maker House.  She has attended my Tucson Women Bloggers Meetup.  Pam is the prototypic successful entrepreneurial blogger.  Her blog topic is her life, both vocation and avocation:  fabric, quilting, sewing, designing, and making,.  She intuitively does the right things to foster readership and connect with the big time players and manufacturers in her field.  She is a business women who understands.  And she does business like a woman.  When she had some doubts about her blog and the blogging process, she sought out a group of knowledgable women with whom to interact.

I was delighted when Pam agreed to participate in this writing process challenge. Here is her post.

Pearl

Pearl blogs at Pearl Ann. I met Pearl about a year and a half ago through the Meetup group I started in Tucson for Women Bloggers.  Members come and go from such groups.  Some women participate for an answer to a specific question and when they find that answer we may not see them again until another question pops up.  But Pearl is consistent, and skilled.  Sometimes she sells herself short.  She blogs.  She does not blog as often as she would like.  She has neighbors who blog.  She loves photography.  And every single time I draw a blank on some sort of techy trivia or the name of an application, or how to access this or that function on a platform – every single time – she is right there with the answer.

Like many women, Pearl knows tons and tons of great information about the processes and technologies that make up the world around her, but she does not boast or even take credit for all she does and knows.  But if you pay attention you will notice that she knows what she is talking about, she speaks her mind quietly and consistently, and keeps doing the things she loves like creating images and sharing them.  Pearl is a classic Lifestyle Blogger or #lblogger if you are hip to the lingo.

Okay, on to the navel-gazing part of the challenge.

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The ANALYSIS

What am I working on?

Probably too many things.  Everything.  There is a world of interesting, stimulating people, places, processes, and things out there!   I am a creative and driven person.  I loved working the reference desk in two different academic research libraries as I did for well over a decade. When I moved on to work in my field of study – in an anthropological museum  – I missed the flow of diverse bits of information flowing across my desk, fingers, and in front of my eyes.  So as I decided to turn my passion for information into a business, I was forced to classify my work. I used mind mapping tools to help me figure out how best to categorize my writing.  I found that can parse my interests by subject and type. Subjects are:

  • Demography
    • Late-Boomers
  • Women’s Culture
    • Overlooked patterns and lineages of influence
    • Women’s information systems
    • Necessary sub-texts and sub-cultures
  • Politics
    • Conservation is good, but change is fun
    • Women will build peace, if it can be done
  • Semiotics
    • How we create meaning and frame moments, things, and thoughts
  • Personal Culture
    • How I fit into the larger culture
    • How I bend culture to fit me

Types are blogs, eBooks, books, and some literary stuff too:

Blogs – Current Events and Observations

Blogging is not a dirty word as Martha Stewart would have you believe.  Suffice it to say that after being a Keynote Speaker at BlogHer12 in NY that she threw bloggers over the side when she said, “Bloggers are not experts” last year  during an interview with Bloomberg and angered half the blogging community.  Most bloggers know whether they are experts in an area.  The world of citizen journalism and sequential journaling are lumped together as blogging when they are two very different beasts.  I engage in writing that I publish online on my own sites.  I do all my own tech, editorial, and content.  I am a writer/editor/publisher and that sets me apart from many bloggers.  I write about topics in which I have graduate degrees and extensive experience.

I put my most professional writing on my Research and Content  site.

Much of my blogging, from a variety of different blogs, accumulated over the last 15 years of writing, is archived at Reason Creek a blog to which I continue to regularly add posts that are not ready for prime time, political, or personal.

As a creative I see new ventures everywhere.  Ideas for posts and stories are not a problem for me.  At times these potential ventures are compelling enough to warrant a domain name purchase and initial site development.  At the current time, BoomHer, Triple Bottom Lines, and Sisters of the Earth are sites I am maintaining that fall into this category although they are side-rail projects.  Late-Boomers.com and BuildPeace.blogspot.com are previous, still accessible, sites/blogs.

I do not like the framing that lies behind “empty nest” as term for women bloggers of a certain age who have raised a family.   I am not empty and I was never a bird, mother hen, or anything remotely like that.  When I thought I still should define myself in some similar style, I created a site, Done Nesting.  It , like the peace and boomer sites, is in a holding pattern.

Ebooks – How To and Shorter Length Nonfiction

I have several in-process ebooks.  Some are on tech, blogging and business topics, one is a political memoir, another is on women’s history.  After serious thought about what platform to use, I will go with a company that offers e or print on demand services.   Shorter works will be ebook/pdf only.    In some cases I started these short nonfiction pieces by combining and reworking several blog posts when I felt that I had enough fodder for distillation.

It was actually the creation of ebooks that made me realize that I needed a site, this one, that would be distinct from my personal blog.

Print Books – Self and Traditional Publishing

There are two books I have started that are real books. The first is a look at medical child abuse from inside an abusive relationship.  I am an adult survivor of a mother with Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.  The other is a book about Gene Stratton-Porter that I started for a traditional publsihing market but will be better served by ebook and print on demand publishing.

And oh, did I mention I also have hundreds of decent poems that I need to put into chap books?  So, my answer to this first promt is that I am working on everything and  too much; isn’t life grand?

How Does My Work Differ From Others in My Genre?

As a non-fiction writer I am not sure that genres is the best word to describe the distinct topics about which I write.

My work always differs from others, even when the topic is the same, as I am quite analytical.  I have to deconstruct, pull apart, rebuild, turn it over in my hand, poke and prod a topic until I feel comfortable saying, “This is how it works.” or “Frigging haven’t a clue as to why but this is important and it is neat.”

On a boastful day I might even say that I have my own genre.  I spent five years around the turn of the millennium writing about the last half of the Baby Boom Generation and doing my best to get the world to understand that the use of the term generation for the post-World War II baby boom was a tad deceiving.  There are at least two distinct age-grade cohorts within this group: the early and late boomers.  I was not the only person to notice this.  The book Generation X was actually written about the last half of the Baby Boomers.  And there was and is another person who created a term, trademarked it, and threw a whole lot of money into advertising the term, Generation Jones, to describe the later born baby boomers that I simple called Late Boomers.

I wrote about this topic over, and over, and over again.  I created e-groups, newsletters, and sites about the topic.  I used the term Late Boomer everywhere I went, near or far, and mentioned it to everyone I met, from French Nobel Prize winners, to Oxford Librarians, to the grocery clerk.  I had a couple other core members of a groups of Late Boomers who also promoted the term.  I was ecstatic when I began to see major publications use the term in articles.

My belief that:

    • determining an open niche in a extant area
    • succinct message broadcast with the new tern
    • repetition whenever and wherever possible

are the essentials of a introducing a new concept into a culture

Today this might be called viral marketing, but for me it was simple applying semiotic principles to a market before the terms to describe how our new information system worked.

Am I taking credit for the segmenting the Baby Boom?  No.  I was simply one of the first people, but not the only person, to see the market and develop it.  Should I have capitalized on the process?  From a strictly market perspective? Probably. But I am an anthropologist and more concerned with process than product.

In a nutshell, I am just as likely to create a genre as to work within one.

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Why do I write/create what I do?  

I am compelled to do so by voices in my head.  Really.  Until I express the idea as it comes to me, until I capture the essence of the thing, in writing, I cannot stop thinking about it.  I write so as to be able to file the thought away.

I may be the way I am and write about what I do because I read too much Alvin Toffler as a kid.

How does your writing/creating process work?

Sheesh.  Differently at different times.

Often I am lucky enough to wake up after having apparently written something in my sleep.  I get up, drink coffee and the words just spill out on to the page.  The first time this happened to me, where a piece just fell on me, I was in High School.  It was a free period so I went into a business classroom and typed out a vignette, The Leaves, about a boy about to be consumed by a napalm fire storm in Viet Nam.  That piece got me into college.  Seriously.

I can and do, just, whip it out, at times.   Often though I can only drop the overview and outline on the paper and then I have to find the references I need to cite.  Being an info junkie and digital hoarder I see so much stuff, bookmark essential sites, and generate cryptic notes on topics that it can take me hours to find the reference I want to site to illustrate a point even though I know the specific sentence in the piece that is drawing me back to reference it.   This is an orthogonally constructed process.  There is a bit of information, tucked off to the side of the main point of an article, sometimes with not even a footnote, and that is the bit of information I need.  Nodes, networks and breadcrumbs are the infrastructure of my creative process.

My drafts folder in my personal blog’s dashboard currently has 179 great posts in various stages of completeness.

I carry a physical notebook with me at all times, as well as a cadre of personal electronic devices, and a carefully crafted assemblage of  pens, mechanical pencils, stylus/pen combos, and gel markers.

There are not just stacks in my office, there are strata.

I am never at a loss for something to write about, although I do not always feel like writing.  The thing about writing that has saved me time and again is that to write, one has to believe in oneself.  When I am depressed and not in the mood to write, I will still see things and note them (even during bleak moments, I just cannot stand to lose a thought) and then I find myself writing, and that makes me believe in myself — because I have things to say, things that need to be said, things to which someone has to give voice.  After I do that, I am less depressed.  It has been a life saver.

Comments

  1. Wow! You are one busy writer! I, too, am still learning the lesson to “throw jealousy or competitiveness out of the window.” It’s hard, sometimes, when not being in one of the “it” niches for bloggers. (Grandma bloggers are just about as common as techy ones, believe me.)

    Thank you for sharing your process! (Now I feel like a slug considering how little I accomplish in comparison. See… still learning that lesson.) 😀
    Lisa recently posted…A hairy issueMy Profile

    • Oh, Lisa, I view you as one of successful bloggers. People love a grandma and you are clever and know how to market. I have to finish and get one of those ebooks to market!

  2. Wow, wow, wow. You’ve given me so much brain fodder here. I had to bookmark this page and will come back to it and parse it and absorb all you’ve shared. So excited to “meet” you…thank you so much for posting this. Now I need a glass of wine so I can take a deeper dive.
    kim tackett recently posted…this week’s mojo to go :: 6 juneMy Profile

    • You are sweet to not just say I was so long-winded that it drove you to drink! Seriously, thank you for noticing that I really tried to make this a valuable, to me at least, exercise.

  3. You had me right here: “I am compelled to do so by voices in my head. Really. Until I express the idea as it comes to me, until I capture the essence of the thing, in writing, I cannot stop thinking about it. I write so as to be able to file the thought away.” Oh my… I know exactly what you mean. I get stuck and can’t move on to what I NEED to do until I get it all out.

    For the record, I wish the voices in my head were 1/4 as inspired as yours!
    ruth curran recently posted…Storytelling: A Whole Brain ExerciseMy Profile

    • LOL, Ruth, so much of me seems like bluster and fluff while you seem so grounded and practical. It is the old praxis v. practice thing. I wish I could get the “voices” to focus on a product!

  4. Nancy! So glad to see your writing and promoting other Tucson bloggers here! My husband, Daniel, met you at the WP meetup and we are both hoping to make it next week. Love to see the validation of blogging as a true writing format. It is certainly a learning process to write engaging posts and find our audience, isn’t it? I am a storyteller, but write a lot of informational blogs, it’s a unique position that I never imagined for myself. Probably much like Suzy, whose blog I adore! Hope to meet you in real life soon!
    Martha recently posted…Side effect notes with anti-pd1My Profile

    • Martha, hope to meet you next week! Online writing has changed everything, but writers gotta write. So glad to “meet” you too!

  5. You work on such meaty topics….kudos!
    Carol Cassara recently posted…Are you psychic?My Profile

  6. Helene cohen bludman says:

    Yes, I too am impressed with the breadth and depth of your work. We each have to follow our inner voice about what to write and disregard the naysayers. Not always easy to so. By any means. I always enjoy reading your work, Nancy.

    • Thanks Helene, I believe there is a place for my non-academic writing. I enjoy having intelligent readers such as yourself. I know you will call me if anything gets too nebulous.

  7. “The internet has made the mixing of ideas possible at a rate, and of a kind, that has not previously existed. Writers are a part of this.” Nancy, I enjoyed your post, but those are the words that speak to me the most. I love finding time to open my WordPress reader and enjoy the words of so many men and women who pour themselves out onto the pages. It’s like reading a whole lot of books about all kinds of things at the same time.
    Actually, WordPress has changed my blogging life. For years I blogged on daily kos, but became annoyed with the negativity and predictability and left. On WP I am rapidly finding a community, making friends, and, surprising to me, gathering more followers every day. I love that WP also concerns itself about my growth as a writer. i am currently participating in a Writing 101 30-day challenge, where I want to learn to practice writing fiction. I think it will improve the book on depression. The biggest surprise? I have bonded to a character I wrote a short piece about and am anxious to see what happens in his life.

    Gotta finish a freelance assignment, just wanted to stop by and say “hi.”

    • Gerry, I am so happy you have found a supportive community through WP blogging. The negativity of the public forum is predictable, as you say. While I do not do politics on this site, I still am thankful to have a place to explore that topic on my personal blog. I have found support in so many ways through writing groups. I am so glad this is working well for you. You deserve a supportive community as you have supported so many in our community! 🙂

  8. Great post! Been reading a lot about functioning in the information age. Thanks for the info here!

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