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The Writing Process

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My friend Katie invited me to answer some questions about my writing process, which (to be perfectly honest) doesn’t even exist.

What are you working on right now?

I don’t take my writing seriously enough to be “working on” anything right now (or ever, really). I write because it’s how my brain processes emotions, events and the world around me at large. There was a time when I thought I wanted to make writing my career. I got some stuff published and pursued magazine jobs and found out really quickly that I can’t write on command or in a voice that isn’t mine or about stories that don’t resonate. Not joyfully, anyway.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t know what my genre is, I guess. When it comes to the blog I’m just trying to move away from quantity and towards more quality. Excluding Caturday, which is just a shitshow.

Why do you write what you do?

I like to write about what I eat and what I wear, and I think that when it comes to good food, good fashion and good writing, good editing is the common denominator.

In college there was an expensive steakhouse about two miles from campus. It was the kind of place you’d have your parents take you when they were in town if, unlike me, you weren’t a vegetarian. The only reason I knew or cared about The Peddler at all was because my freshman English professor used it to teach me the most valuable writing lesson I’ve ever received.

Dr. Judy Bainbridge is a small but mighty presence. She stands at about 5-foot-nothing, smells like cigarettes and ignites fear in the hearts of bright-eyed straight A students aiming for a 4.0. I was told that getting an A in Bainbridge’s class would be nearly impossible and, in fact, she gave me a C on my first paper.

It was the first time anyone had ever taken the time to tell me that, while my writing was above average, I could do better. The key according to Bainbridge was editing, and her advice was this: Every time we wrote something we were to go back through and remove unnecessary words. For each word removed we put a penny in a jar, and when we had saved up enough to eat dinner at The Peddler, we would be good writers.

I didn’t start a Peddler penny jar, but I never forgot the lesson. I left Bainbridge’s class with an A- and a constant reminder that, while above average, I could (and should) always do better.

Coco Chanel had a similar editing theory about fashion, allegedly advising women to look in the mirror before leaving the house and remove one accessory. There’s something to be said about leaving something unsaid.

When it comes to food the Internet is awash with all these gratuitous over-the-top cookie dough-stuffed chocolate-covered cupcakes and the like that are designed, in my opinion, more for Pinterest ogling than actual consumption. A little subtly can go a long way and there’s nothing subtle about stuffing a cookie inside a brownie. (But I would eat it.)

So I guess I write what I do because I like to tell stories, and in food and fashion and writing there’s a certain finesse in saying it right and saying it well without all the excess.

How does your writing process work?

Oh there is no process, but there are three things I need to function: silence, space and solitude. Other than that, either I’ve got it or I don’t and it can’t be forced.

 

6 Comments

  1. There’s no better inspiration to improve your writing than someone telling you it sucks.

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your appreciation of grammar.

  2. Elise Elise

    Unrelated, but where is your bow ring from?? So cute.

    • My mom gave me both of those rings. The little silver lei is from her first (and only) trip to Hawaii when I was in middle school. I asked when I would get to go to Hawaii too and she said, “When you’re 40.” The bow is a “forget me not” knot for when I went off to college and I’ve never taken it off in 11 years.

  3. Wow, you just brought back some memories! Judy’s husband was my favorite urban design prof at Clemson and coincidentally also stood at five foot nothing and reeked of cigarette smoke.

  4. TaMo TaMo

    I have been to Hawaii three times. Maybe, I only brought a souvenir back once. OOPS!

    • Katie Katie

      Hahaha! What the hell, mom??

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