Midge Raymond‘s fantastic collection of short stories, FORGETTING ENGLISH, takes us deep inside the landscape of the psyche. Her characters are complex women, learning to navigate beyond their usual geographic and emotional contexts — and I found them irresistible.
So, I am delighted to tell you that FORGETTING ENGLISH (which won the 2007 Spokane prize for fiction) has just been re-released by Press 53. To celebrate, Midge is doing a blog tour this week, and today she’s here (in that virtual sense) to talk about a subject that is often on my mind: how to stay engaged with our creative process, day in and day out, even if we are not “getting to the page” every day.
Here’s Midge Raymond on thinking like a writer:
I was recently interviewed for a blog by a fellow writer who asked me about my writing habits, specifically: Do I write every day?
In my younger days, I used to dread this question because I don’t, in fact, write every day. I never have. I’ve always had day jobs, deadlines, commutes, family obligations, appointments, and any number of things that get in the way of daily writing; most of the time, I simply write when I can. But for a long time, saying this out loud somehow felt like sacrilege. It made me feel as though I wasn’t a real writer.
But I’ve since learned that I’m not alone, that every writer’s process differs, that there is no One Right Way to be a writer. And I’ve also learned why people stick to the write-every-day rule so religiously: It’s so easy to lose momentum. So I’ve changed the way I view this old rule, and I’ve resolved that even if I can’t put words to page every day, I can still, and always, think like a writer every day.
If you make a conscious effort to think like a writer, you’ll stay in writer mode, even if you’re not technically writing. But what does Thinking Like a Writer mean? Here are a few ways I embrace it:
Observation. All writers see the world a little differently than other people. We pick up things that others may not notice; we hear a bit of dialogue and suddenly see a poem or story. We glimpse an object or a gesture and write five pages about it. By taking the time to look at the world around you and really see it, you’ll remain in writer mode.
Interaction. Ask questions; be nosy. This is easy for me, as a former journalist; I find that some writers tend to be shy about it. Don’t be. People love to talk about themselves—ask them about their jobs, what it was like to grow up in small-town Kansas, how they scraped by when they ran out of money in a bus station in Thailand. You don’t necessarily need to tell their stories, but in hearing about them you’ll glimpse a world outside your own, and this will enrich your writing.
Imagination. Add imagination to these two things above, and you’ll never run out of material. Think about your writing as you’re drifting off to sleep, or commuting to work—sometimes the best ideas are discovered when our minds are completely elsewhere and not entirely focused.
Naturally, we can’t simply Think Like Writers all the time and expect the work to create itself; we have to face the blank page eventually. And there are certainly times in which I do write daily—but more often it’s because I’m inspired by a project, not because I feel it’s expected of me to sit in the chair, “staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead,” as the writer Gene Fowler once put it. Of course, Fowler was right: Writing is hard work, sometimes excruciatingly hard work—yet there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the process, with trusting your own instincts and inspirations, and carving out the writer’s life you envision, which is not one-size-fits-all.
You’ll find more of Midge’s insightful blog postings here.