So here’s my contribution to the #MyWritingProcessTour series. It’s a fun and insightful way to tell the world about yourself as a writer (which may be different than who you are as a person), as well as show support to fellow writers. Having recently been told that I probably suffer from Imposter Syndrome, I’m always looking for ways to make myself feel like a legitimate writer (even though I’ve published enough to justify the tag), so the fact that I was invited to participate in this makes me feel good. Shout out to Sam Snoek-Brown for including me in his entry and passing the torch. He’s a super nice guy and a superb writer, so check him out. We collaborated on a story for Exquisite Quarterly about two years ago (it was called “Scenes from an Open Marriage.”) Great experience. His latest flash collection, Box Cutters, has been doing really well, and his novel Hagridden is forthcoming from Columbus Press.
Anyway, here’s a brief look into my writing process:
What am I working on?
For the past couple months I’ve been trying to rewrite a short story I originally wrote in college. It was called “Timothy,” but I renamed it “Death Whispered a Lullaby.” I did this for two reasons: one is that I try to implement progressive rock into everything I write as a way of merging my two passions, so I like to use phrases from music in my work. “Death Whispered a Lullaby” is a song by Opeth, one of my favorite bands. The other reason is that the title fits well with the story, which centers on a man remembering the death of his childhood friend’s little brother. Seeing as how an eight year old is murdered in the story, “death” and “lullaby” instantly let you know what kind of story it’ll be, I think. It acts as a warning that this won’t be a happy tale. I’ve got about a third of it done, but of course once it’s completed I’ll probably revise it more, so who knows how long this will take.
Once I’m finished that, I plan to revise and complete my first novel. I wrote two drafts of it in graduate school; back then, it was called Kosher Kin since its primary purpose was an attack on the idea that religion is the most important thing in a romantic relationship. At the time I was dating a girl who wasn’t Jewish, yet she always asked if my family cared about that (likewise, my grandparents always asked if she was Jewish, as if that’s determined if she was allowed to date me). If you know me, you know that I’m against organized religion for many reasons, and this sense of superiority within Judaism is one of the major ones. There are dozens of things that are more important to a relationship than obligatorily sharing a religion, and the fact that one would have to give up dating someone because their family, friends, and/or community wants them to date within their own theology is disgusting. So Kosher Kin was originally a commentary on that.
I’m no longer dating that girl, but I still feel the same way about the principle so I’m going to stick with it in some way. I also want to expand upon that theme and include other explorations, such as cultism, suicide due to bullying, and mental illness. I want to call the novel As the Curtains Close; that’s also the name of my first album, which is still being worked on (ten years and counting, unfortunately). I’ve been told by a publisher that they’ll publish whatever project I have next, so I’m hoping that I can have As the Curtains Closed finished by next year and ready to be sold and ridiculed haha.
Outside of that, I’m always working on music journalism. This month, I’ll be interviewing Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, as well as working on an article for an upcoming book about Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. I’m sure I’ll be reviewing albums along the way too.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Well I’m not sure what genre(s) my work belongs in. Frankly I don’t really know what the various genres of fiction entail, so I never feel comfortable searching by category on, say, Duotrope. What exactly is postmodern vs. absurdist vs. realism vs. general vs. bizarre vs. whatever. I primarily write free verse poetry (although it includes rhyming, but it doesn’t adhere to any strict form, which some people hate. But screw them haha), as well as flash fiction. I suppose all of my work contains a lot of sentiment, which I don’t think is bad. I just read a piece in Poets & Writers about the unnecessary connotations of “sentiment.” Anyway, I like to pack a lot of feeling in as few words as possible (FF can only include up to 1,000 words). I like to begin in the moment and explore a specific incident, so there’s not a lot of character development or background. As I said, I also include references to music, so I guess that’s unique.
Why do I write what I do?
I want to create something that affects the reader. I believe emotion is the purest way to understand ourselves and connect with each other and the world, so there’s nothing more vital to living than experiencing emotions. That probably sounds like clichéd bullshit, but it’s the best answer I have. My life is made worthwhile by the ways in which creative works help me understand and express my own thoughts and feelings, so I want to do the same for others. Sure I write about dark topics most of the time, but I feel that those are the most honest and deep places because they’re what make life so complex. Sunshine and rainbows are fine, but I don’t want to read or hear about them. How complex can you make a story about something overtly pleasant? I feel uplifted when I discover powerful art, so a beautifully tragic song or a heavy plotline makes me happy simply because such amazing pieces of art exist. It’s like, “Okay, Six Feet Under and Porcupine Tree’s ‘Heartattack in a Layby’ are really sad, but they’re also very honest and accurate about life, and the fact that they manage to capture glimpses of life so tenderly makes me happy.” I want to create pieces that leave readers speechless for a moment or two; they shouldn’t be able to forget about what they’ve just read.
How does my writing process work?
It happens very rarely, for one. I’ve heard that anything you do related to writing counts as writing, so most of my process consists of thinking about my story while I’m walking or driving. I try to walk a lot (weather permitting), so I have a lot of time to think about where my story is going. Unfortunately, I really have to push myself to actually write, and I’m not sure why that is. I was supposed to finish this over a week ago, for example, and I’m only getting to it now. I think it’s because I want to take the easy way out and do something that won’t require thought, such as watch television, instead. For some reason I have a strong hesitation toward actually getting creative things done, be it writing or recording music. However, once I’m in the “zone,” I usually get a lot done and feel proud of myself when I’m finished for the day.
It’s like wanting to run a marathon but never actually doing it. I know that once I start doing the activity, I’ll get swept up in it and spend a good amount of time on it. Hell, I sometimes have to push myself to get exercise, but then I’m really proud of myself when I do. I enjoy being in the mindset of a writer/musician/athlete (although I wouldn’t call myself athletic just because I walk a bit). I think I’m afraid of being frustrated by not having any good ideas. It’s like, “What if I try to write or record and it sucks?” I’m afraid of hitting that wall. Maybe it’s a confidence issue. It’s a weird juxtaposition, I guess.
And now for something completely different…
Shawn Proctor: Shawn Proctor’s writing has been nominated for Best New American Voices and published in several literary journals and anthologies, including Storyglossia, Think Journal, Schuylkill Valley Journal and Our Haunted World: Ghost Stories from Around the Globe. His journalism has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Main Line Today and Ale Street News, and and he published a roleplaying module with Chaosium, Inc. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College and is the Book Editor for Nerd Caliber. He recently completed a novel, featuring a former college classmates who must fight for their lives when the world’s only superhero is murdered.
Roman Nicholas: Roman Colombo finished his MFA in 2010 at Rosemont College, and has since been teaching at Drexel University and Bucks County Community College, living the nomadic adjunct life and trying to find logic in a world where none applies. His works have been published in MonkeyBicycle, The Rusty Nail, The Lit Garden, and The Weekly Comic Book Review, as well as the anthology Strangers of Different Ink. Currently, he is working on Sin’s Requiem, his second novel in the Catholic Noir Double Feature. His first published novel–and the first “feature” in the Catholic Noir series–Trading Saints for Sinners was recently published by WragsInk in December of 2013
Eddy Rathke: Edward J Rathke wrote Ash Cinema, Twilight of the Wolves, and Noir: A Love Story. Find him at here.
Matthew Dexter: Like nomadic Pericú natives before him, Matthew Dexter survives on a hunter-gatherer subsistence diet of shrimp tacos, smoked marlin, cold beer, and warm sunshine. He is the author of the novel, THE RITALIN ORGY (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing 2013). His short fiction and narrative nonfiction has been published in hundreds of literary journals and dozens of anthologies. Thousands fo articles sold for fish tacos. Matthew lives in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He is the Lil Wayne of literature