While everyone else is throwing buckets of ice water on their heads, I’m very relieved to be tagged in a blogging meme where I don’t have to get wet. If you’re not familiar with the Writing Process Blog Tour, it’s easy: just answer four questions and tag three more people. Simple!
I was tagged (well, I volunteered to be tagged) by my colleague Jenny Neill. With the amazing digital, internet age we live in, we’re able to meet like-minded strangers online, before meeting in person, and feel like we’re great friends already. This is true of most of the bloggers I know: I met them online first.
I’m excited to participate, even though it’s perhaps early for me to be doing it. I haven’t been blogging for long; my blog is about two years old and I don’t contribute to it often, but because I want to write more frequently, this seems like a perfect way to get started. There’s nothing like giving yourself a deadline to get things accomplished.
As much as I like to talk about myself (and who doesn’t), it’s hard to answer questions like these. Those deep, probing, intimate questions, like “what do you do?” They always tie me up. I’m always fighting self-esteem and confidence issues, so I feel like a faker—even though most of us are. That whole “fake it till you make it” idea is easier said than done. My recent change in careers doesn’t help, and though this new career is starting to take off, it’s difficult to measure—particularly when it’s not really measured in money yet—and to assess honestly to myself.
I’d better get to the meme itself: The Four Questions:
What are you working on?
Since I’m still new to this career (and I still sometimes question whether it’s what I want to be doing), I’ve got my fingers in several things. That’s the life of a freelancer, I guess.
I have lots of ideas for stories and I’m trying to pitch more, from interviews and behind the scenes entertainment features to personal essays, but I’m also working with some basic administrative tasks, like building my website (constructive criticism is always welcome). I write mostly about pop culture, television, and movies, especially where dance intersects (I used to dance for a living), but I’m also branching into personal essays. I’ve been working on a couple stories about the awesome annual nerd cruise I attend, and I’m hoping to place them somewhere cool, very soon.
Of course, there’s also the basic upkeep on my blog, and I just wrote a few days ago about writing more, and perhaps doing a 30-day blog-post-a-day challenge. If there’s a subject you’d like to see me tackle, let me know.
I also do some non-writing, video journalism tasks, interviewing people on camera and editing the footage myself. I want to do more on-camera hosting, but it’s difficult to balance all this with writing, and I’m currently running the camera myself (hard to be behind- and on-camera at the same time). I’m also an assistant on a great upcoming feature documentary on swing dancing, something I used to teach as part of my earlier career.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
This is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I’m carving out my niche in this insanely full and competitive world of freelance writing. What makes me unique is my background in musical theatre and dance history. I bring knowledge to TV recaps that I hope is unique and that not everyone has. I also love to look at how dance and pop culture reflects the culture surrounding it, so I try to draw that out when I can.
Why do you write what you do?
Did I mention these questions are difficult for me? They are.
I second-guess myself all the time—generally, but with writing too—because I wonder if I want to be doing this. It’s funny; I remember thinking as a kid that I would like to be a writer, but then I never really pursued it. It was certainly something I did though, and as part of my career. I’m a stickler for grammar, even though I don’t always know the specific rules, and I wrote and presented papers as a dance history scholar. But when people say that writing (and all the arts) is a labor of love and you have to really want to do it in order to pursue it, I don’t feel like that’s me. You know that famous quote from George Balanchine, “I don’t want people who want to dance, I want people who have to dance”? I’m not sure there’s anything that I really have to do anymore. I generally want to watch television. Everything else I can take or leave. (Boy, that’s depressing.)
I think what I love about writing is expressing my opinion, and everyone is entitled to my opinion. (Har har.) I don’t always have a point of view on things, and I often shy away from particularly hot-button debates, but when I do have an opinion about something, I like being able to express it and hopefully have others read it. I was also a performer first, so that need for validation and that love of garnering attention from others, that’s always present. All the wrong reasons to start a blog, they say.
More importantly, I was also a teacher in my previous career, so that desire to share what I know with others is very strong. I love helping people figure things out. If I can help them learn something or see something in a new way, or consider a different path, it brings me joy. That thirst for knowledge, the curiosity about how or why things work, I rarely take things at face value; I’ve always asked a lot of questions and I like to discover things. Finding those new (to me) ideas; drawing those correlations between related, or not so related things; relishing in the simple, sometimes obvious components that you just didn’t think about. Those are so much fun to discover and share.
How does your writing process work?
While it depends a little on what I’m doing (whether it’s research-based or personal experience), the main issue for me is just getting started. I talk about this a little in my latest post: I’m often so distracted with other things, be it administrative work for my own projects or someone else’s, or terrible time wasters like the Internet and TV. There are too many other things that pull me away, not to mention all the crappy stuff in my head (it’s gonna sound terrible; it’s not right; blah blah blah), so just sitting down, opening up Word or WordPress or the Notes app in my iPad, and starting is hardest. I just need to get words on the page.
In some ways, doing a research-based or scholarly paper is harder because there’s more excuse to do anything other than the writing. Everything can be considered “research” if you think about it the right way. I tend to feel a need to read everything that’s out there, and you just can’t. Yes, you need to do the proper amount of research and feel prepared, but eventually you end up spinning your wheels and you just need to start.
That happened when I was working on my masters thesis, a lecture performance comparing the Cancan and the Charleston. (This, btw, is perhaps indicative of how I feel like I want to do everything). Not only was I researching two different dance styles that come from very distinct periods and countries, but I had to write, choreograph, cast, teach, direct, produce, and perform. At some middle-latish point in the process, after I had done a bunch of research but not much more, one of my teachers asked me how it was going and I said I wasn’t sure what to do next. Her response: just start on something. Stop spinning your wheels and just go.
Often once I’ve started, I get into the flow of it and can keep going. Sometimes though, it’s more of a chore and I have to force myself to keep on. That’s especially true when my brain gets in the way. If I start feeling like it’s crappy or not headed in the right direction, then I have to either consider whether I really want to change direction and fix it, or whether I need to squash that negative voice in my head and just plow ahead anyway. I’m getting better at allowing myself a crappy first draft. Once you get something out there, you can then go back and make it lovely—even if you have to step away from it for a short while first. Just as long as you eventually do go back to it.
Alright, enough navel-gazing for now. Time to pass the buck, or at least the meme, and call out the next lovely bloggers on your Writing Process Tour.
I’m tagging three very clever women:
Nicole Dieker is a good friend and the only blogger I know who I met in person first, rather than online. We both attended the above-mentioned nerd cruise, back when she was working as a musician and just getting her very impressive freelance writing career off the ground. She works her butt off and has become an expert on freelance writing, and I encourage anyone trying to do it to read all her stuff.
Teresa Jusino is a new friend here in Los Angeles. We met through a Facebook writers’ group, but I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting her in person and we bonded instantly over Doctor Who. She caught my eye on the Facebook group because she is so prolific with her blog posts, often posting two or more times a day.
I also met Michelle Parrinello-Cason through the FB writing group, but since she lives in St. Louis, I’ve not yet met her in person. I was instantly impressed with her blog, Balancing Jane, because of her relatable ideas and honest, instantly engaging writing. I look forward to reading more from her, as I do all these women.
So I hope you enjoyed this stop on the tour, and be sure to follow it as it continues. On Twitter, use the hashtag #mywritingprocess.