Writing Process Blog Tour

I’ve been nominated by Sonja, and in turn, have nominated Emma.


What are you working on?

Most immediately, a short story inspired by an article I read in a recent New Yorker. It involves a young woman navigating a course among caring for her alcoholic and terminally ill aunt, with whom she’s living in order to avoid paying rent, watching a dream withering and trying to figure out if salvaging a deteriorating relationship with her girlfriend is worth the trouble. Let’s just say that, absorbed in her own thoughts and emotions, she has an unexpected encounter with an older man who may just be more than what he seems. And, no, I’m not going to divulge which article was the inspiration, as that could ruin the surprise! This is still very much in the gestation period, and may change radically or land on the dusty detritus heap alongside so many abortive attempts ere it’s even close to a finished draft.

Longer term, I’m plugging away at a novel that’s been my bête noire for quite some time now. I hope to finally put its first complete draft to bed before my birthday in April. At least that way, I’ll be able to say I wrote a novel before I turned thirty (now, having published a novel before I turn thirty would of course be nicer, but I don’t realistically see that happening). I’m also editing and writing poems on no regular schedule with the eventual goal of compiling them into some semblance of a collection.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

On my blog and in tweets/Facebook posts, my writing is very raw and immediate with little editing, as it’s my view that such media are intended for rapid responses and, if not quite stream-of-consciousness, writing that addresses the here-and-now-ness of its topic. In that work (if you want to designate it as such; I’m not sure I would) I also adopt a highly sardonic and often bitterly abrasive tone depending on my topic — a tone I tamp down substantially in my nonfiction that I am either assigned or intend for publication somewhere; as those are typically in the form of book reviews, that seems to be a pretty natural approach. In all my writing, I like to think that I’m developing a unique voice entirely my own; this is a lifelong project of course, but, again, I *like* to think that one can read a piece of mine — fiction or nonfiction — and think “This sounds like Benji Taylor.”

Beyond voice, I think my work across media and genres is notable for its catholicism of purview — small “c” “catholicism,” please note. I am interested in practically everything and am comfortable writing about most everything.

Why do you write what you do?

Often because I am presented with no alternative. In one of my favorite novels, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the narrator muses on Beethoven’s String Quarter in F Major, op. 135, the final movement of which is prefaced with the question “Muß es sein? and answers emphatically “Es muß sein! Es muß sein!(Must it be? It must! It must!). The context for that particular discursion is different in the novel, but to me that question is the one I pose to myself when seizing upon a particular concept, character, image or scenario about which I know indubitably that I must write. That’s probably a bit overwrought, but I often write when compelled to; when the words come and force their way onto paper or screen.

Beyond that, I find writing highly relaxing while taxing and rewarding (if not more so in both regards) as a rigorous workout. I’m by nature a very tightly-wound, intensely high-energy person, and writing doesn’t exactly relieve tension in the way, say, a deep-tissue massage or really good sex does. It does, however, provide a means to focus that tension and transfer it to a character or the relationship between or among characters, situations imagined or real, words said or unsaid.

How does your writing process work?

Most everywhere I go I carry with me at least two or three separate notebooks, each of which begins with its own specific purpose, though, of course, those purposes tend to cross-pollinate to the extent that any distinction among them rarely lasts beyond two weeks of purchase. Back when I had a thirty-minute or so drive to work, I’d often narrate into my phone-as-tape-recorder — a practice I’ll resume if I ever have a car commute of enough length to warrant it. I have the attention span of a meth-addled dachshund, so when I do sit down to write, it’s often in bursts of 20-30 minutes — almost always while listening to music of some sort; I try to match the mood of the music to the mood I associate with whatever it is I’m working on, whether that leads me to Hildegard von Bingen or Minor Threat — after which I’ll read for about the same amount of time, switch back to writing, switch to a different book, and keep activity frenetic, the flow of words out and in constant and of constantly changing varieties.

I try to write two thousand words a day, six days a week — two thousand sounds like a lot, but I apply that across everything I’m writing, including blog posts and writing in my personal journal.

I compose my creative work either by hand or on my 1963 Olivetti Letera, do my editing by hand and then re-edit when I type it into a Word document. For blog posts and reviews, I mostly just use WordPress or Word, respectively. If any of this sounds neat and orderly, trust me, it’s not; I have no set schedule (though I’d love and intend to establish one… … …someday) and my desktop (physical and digital) is a shambles shuffled inside of a wreck buried beneath a disaster.

~ by Benji on September 23, 2014.

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