My Writing Process — A Blog Tour

My writing pal, Betsy Morro invited me to participate in this Blog Tour that’s making the rounds these days and I’m honored that she did. Betsy’s writing an exciting book right now, Casualties, and I’m lucky enough to get to read parts of it most weeks. You can find out more about Betsy’s process at her site:

The Blog Tour wants participants to respond to four questions about their writing process. So here goes.

#1 What am I working on?

These days I’m about hip deep, maybe deeper, in my newest book, WILD WOMEN, WILD VOICES, which will be published by New World Library in February 2015. So in this post, I’ll speak only to my writing books.

photoThis new book has its roots in a series of Wild Women writing workshops I’ve given over the last fifteen years. The workshops themselves came in response to this quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves. “No matter by which culture a woman is influenced, she understands the words wild and woman, intuitively.”

The book’s subtitle is Writing from Our Authentic Wildness. It’s a guided journey through different aspects of women’s lives and invites readers to respond to questions, writing prompts and exercises writing from their authentic wild voice.

#2 How does my work differ from others of its genre?

WILD WOMEN, WILD VOICES is my fifth writing book, and my first written exclusively for women. (You can see my previous books here.) It differs from others in that it is as much a book of self-expression and exploration as it is about writing. While there are sections about the craft of writing, it’s not a craft book. And while it’s not an anthology, it will include selections of prose and poetry from published writers as well as writings from women who have participated in the Wild Women writing workshops. I hope it will be evocative for women who want to discover, uncover, or recover their authentic wild voice.

#3 Why do I write what I do?

All of my writing books have come out of workshops I ‘ve developed or groups I have led. In my classes and groups, I’ve witnessed beginning writers undertake a writing practice that allows them to find their voice, and more experienced writers respond to the work in exciting ways; exciting for them and for me. I’ve seen writers grow in skill and technique, and maybe more importantly, self-confidence. I’m amazed at the risks they’re willing to take and the perseverance they muster to write their stories and memoirs. I wanted to put the “live” workshop material into printed form so more who were called to the kind of writing I teach, would have access to it.

Over the years of leading the Wild Women Writing Workshop, I’ve had requests from women all over the country to bring the workshop to them. WILD WOMEN, WILD VOICES, is my way of responding.

#4 How does your writing process work?

messy workWhen I first begin a new project, I go mad for research. Because I’ve already taught much of the material in my workshops and groups, I have some structure for the book, but I generally need to add more material since much of what happens in workshop is spontaneous and live. This is especially true for my current WIP. I buy yellow pads by the dozens and scrawl and scratch notes and ideas. I keep a journal for the project, too, and free-write my thoughts and ideas; I ask myself questions and respond in the journal. I’m a list maker.

Though I can’t exactly say why, I write first drafts of my nonfiction books on my computer; fiction first drafts are always hand-written. For the first time, I’m using Scrivner, which is a very cool software program for writers. It allows me to keep my notes and my rough drafts, my comments and questions and more in easily accessed files. I’m pretty sure I’m only using about ten percent of the program’s capabilities. But it’s a boon for organization.

With this project more than any of the others, I am taking the actual writing away from home. I work in cafes alone and with others and at friends’ homes, at the library and a friend’s art gallery. I begin work mid-morning and work for several hours, sometimes coming back to the work in the evening. I’m certain, as I get closer to deadline, there will be many, many late nights. As I write this I’m at a cabin in a small mountain community in Southern California, where I’ll ensconce myself for all of next month.

I wish I weren’t such a perfectionist.

This Writing Process Blog Tour is a tag-team project and I’m delighted to introduce two fine writers who I have invited to follow me.

J. Dylan Yates has just published her first book, A BELIEF IN ANGELS. She’s hip deep (or deeper) in marketing and working on a sequel. You can find Dylan here.

Sylvia Mendoza is an award-winning novelist, journalist, editor and generous supporter of women. She’s one authentic Wild Woman. Read Sylvia’s post here.

20 thoughts on “My Writing Process — A Blog Tour

  1. Judy, you rock! In the short time I’ve known you and the long time I’ve followed your work and teachings, I’ve learned to tap in and my life has become richer. Onward!

      • Linda, where were you in ’94? I had just started The Writing Center in San Diego, my Brown Bag writing group was just getting interesting.

    • Love sharing this writing life with you Sylvia. Thanks for your comment and for joining me in the Blog Tour.

      • Judy — oops — it was 1999 (not 1994) when I first became your disciple after the first edition of Days was printed. I ordered it from the library like I do everything before I consider buying a copy and found the best writing book I’d ever seen. After that I made sure they ordered all your ensuing works.

        I had never tried or heard of writing prompts and the flow I learned from writing your prompts unlocked my writing and HowMaster ensued in 2003. Since then I tried to rewrite a book and a novel, tossed those after I figured out old interests don’t always carry forth their passion into forever, and am at work on a novel with characters who walked in from the old works. Just like that. Knocked on the screen and marched in waving as if they hadn’t walked off the stage in my tossed novel.

      • Ah, those were the days, my friend. Thank you, Linda, for being such a supporter of my work all these years. I’m so glad the prompts in AWBOD opened doors (and look who walked in!)

  2. I’m also a Canadian wild woman and the word I found interesting is perfectionist. For what would happen if we invited our shadow sides, including the perfectionist, to an elegant tea party to listen to uncensored messages from these parts of ourselves? It takes courage, but there is sooo much energy in these parts of us.

    • Yep. Perfection is what I call proofreader skills coming out. Proofreader’s antics affect my entire life. Drives me and everyone else nertz.

    • Oh, Eileen, that perfectionist voice of mine would never shut up enough to drink her tea, plus she’d have comments on everyone else at the party as well as the table setting and the tea. Thanks for commenting on the post.

      • Judy, it is such a delight to respond to your posts, for I am the one who repeatedly asked about the Wild Womens Writing workshop from British Columbia.

        I know the perfectionist very well from my own life and there is such power in that energy as well…maybe we could explore that sometime…I do know how to work with these energies and it is truly amazing to see other aspects of what they hold and can teach us, as we learn how to be with them in a different way!

      • Hi Eileen, Thanks for your comment about the energy in perfectionism and the possibility of using that energy in a more positive way. Most interesting. I’ll look forward to your thoughts about this.

      • Good morning Judy,

        As I mentioned, I know the perfectionist well as a part of my life. I’ve worked with this pattern for many years, at first trying to get rid of it…which didn’t happen.

        What I’ve learned is that there are two sides to everything, so I’ll speak to my own experience with the perfectionist. The perfectionist in it’s shadow side, wants everything to be perfect. Nothing is ever good enough, it is dagger eyed with every detail being done, as an unrelenting dog gnawing on it’s bone! You try and take that away from the dog, well you know! So with that, one can never relax and receive the gift of what it is that is being or has been created. And if there is a moment of satisfaction, it is momentary. Then it is onto the next thing. When the perfectionist is operative, there is no deeper levels of receiving for the sake of receiving…it is then onto the next thing and that has to be perfect.

        The good side of the perfectionist is that it drives one to excellence and into new landscapes of discovery, of unearthing areas within which are in their state of possibility to mine the inner imaginings. It is an unrelenting push to discover more of what is within the depths of the soul. That is why I was so drawn to your wild woman writing workshop.

        So how do I deal with this perfectionism? Firstly, I recognize when that pattern is operative…which can be, “well that’s not good enough” which if I don’t catch it, is the search is on… and the search will always be on, because it is never enough.

        I’ve come to see that getting angry at it only represses it. So I decided to be luxuriously creative. This has to feel authentic or it won’t work. Meaning each person with this pattern has to feel what is right for them, but since we’re talking about me, lets stay there. I’m the boss, in other words, I have to be bigger than that voice, like a parent with an unruly child. I say to this part of me, since it is part of my psyche, “I want to hear what you want to say, and what you need”.. I create an inner space with beautiful china tea cups and say, I’m inviting you to have tea and I will listen to what it is you need to say, and to hear how we can create together.” I am strong within my inner stance. For, if I am not it is the perfectionist who is running my life and not me. And I want to work in a creative manner with this pattern. So I go from there, by listening and working with this part of my psyche.

      • Hi Eileen. Thanks for this thoughtful comment. What is most interesting to me is your take that the “perfectionist” really wants is to “push to discover more of what is within the depths of the soul.” That is, looking for more ways to be creative or to take the creativity deeper. That’s not a way I’ve looked at this before. So it is most interesting. Thanks so much for offering this point of view about something that has held me hostage on many occasions. Much food for thought in your comment.

  3. Re your reply to #3: this Canadian wild woman writer also wants your workshop brought to her. re your response to #4: I love to write in Notebook but he won’t transfer to Word for me so I end up trying to prop him (yes male) up and read my messy writing at the same time during transcription. Notebook sleeps alone now although he does accumulate notes for WIP (a novel regarding the universality of the human spirit). I think this is the story that wanted to be told all along despite the book and novel I deleted last year.

    • Hi Canadian Wild Woman (yes, you are. I know that for a fact). Hmmm you know what I never thought of, but your note about Notebook gives me pause. Voice-activated software, so we could speak what we’ve written (me by hand, you into your lonely Notebook), into a file that would then transfer to Word or maybe even Scrivner. (This is a really cool program.)

      • Thanks Judy! The only trouble with that is that I didn’t think of it first. Hey you could write a story about such software planted so someone thinks they are being haunted by this disembodied voice! Thanks Judy I will look into voice activated software when I go to London Drugs to take in the deceased computer and into RAM-bunctious the new.

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