Why I write (the My Writing Process blog tour!)


My friend Mary Montanye, author of the recently-published memoir Above Tree Line, tagged me in the My Writing Process blog tour and I’m so grateful. I absolutely adore talking to other writers about why, and how, they write. It’s never exactly the same for any two people, and I love that.

So thanks, Mary, for the tag (and I hope you’ll visit her beautiful site and read her post). At the end of this post, I’ll be tagging another writer and the tour will continue! (Do click through and check out the previous writers on this tour — I’ve been having such a great time reading about everyone’s process!)

Just for fun, here’s my first memory of myself writing: I wrote a tiny book (on index cards, with purple Magic Marker) about our dog, Rosie. I drew pictures, too. My dad bound it in a little leather cover. I imagine he still has it somewhere. I was about five, I think. I wrote the book because I could hardly contain the joy our dog created in me. It simply had to be expressed.

So let me launch into the questions for this blog tour and let’s see if I still write for the reasons I did at five!

Why do you write what you do?Β 

For me, journaling is the hub of all my writing. I am a compulsive journaler and have been since I was about thirteen (one of my earliest journals is pictured above, modeled by kitty. Yes, I still have it!).

I journal to understand, process, and integrate what I’m going through. And my journaling leaps off my notebook into other forms of writing — fiction, essays, blog posts, short stories. No matter what I’m writing, I’m always doing it for the same reason: I want to know and understand myself better.

Even when I write a fictional character, that character is often an aspect of me, perhaps a shadowy part of me that I don’t know very well, and maybe am afraid to know. In that sense, all of my writing is about moving myself toward wholeness.

And, there is always the hope that what I write will reach that person who truly needs to read it.

What are you working on?

In a nutshell, I’m revising a novel draft about a forty-year-old woman who realizes she still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up (and her life is not exactly set up to allow her to find out). I’m also working on a short story about a sixteen-year-old girl who’s in that tender and sometimes treacherous transition place between child and adult (ouch!).

My characters are often “seekers” who are idealistic and struggle with the question of what it means to be a “happy adult” in this world. I feel I have a nonfiction book in me, too, but it’s not letting me know exactly what it is yet.

What is your writing process?

I am a “pantser” and an intuitive writer — I don’t do a lot of planning or outlining, I like to jump in and write. I’m a big believer in “spaghetti on the wall” first drafts. I want to get it all out there and see what sticks (which isn’t always easy for me as I have a pretty powerful inner perfectionist).

I almost always start the day with morning pages; I find I’m more grounded and centered throughout the day when I do, and very often an almost-complete blog post or idea for a short story or solution to the issue I’m having with my novel comes out of my morning pages. From morning pages, I jump off into my other writing.

I don’t write for hours at a time — at about 90 minutes max, I usually reach a point where I’ve had enough and it’s time to put away the writing and let my subconscious chew on it for a while before I return to it. Lately, I’m rediscovering how important it is to step away from the writing and come back to it with fresh eyes.

And it’s hard for me to talk about my writing process without mentioning the wonderful creative writing program at Columbia College Chicago. It was there that I learned to trust my writer’s voice and my innate sense of story, and I still picture the semi-circle of open, curious faces in those classes when I write. More recently, I’ve received tremendous daily support for my writing from The Writer’s Circle.

Oh, and coffee! I absolutely must have my coffee before I start writing. And — if there’s time — a good, long walk. And, if I’m writing at home, my cat on my lap.

And now I’d like to tag Michele Alishahi — a memoirist who writes beautiful blog posts. Her story is so compelling — I hope you’ll bookmark her site and visit it on June 23, as the My Writing Process blog tour continues!

I really want to hear about YOUR writing process, if you’re a writer. I’d love it if you’d share in the comments.

16 thoughts on “Why I write (the My Writing Process blog tour!)

  1. Beautiful and informative post, Jill. I knew I wanted to tag you for a reason. We have some serious similarities like the need (and I mean NEED) for morning pages and coffee. For always including a part of ourselves in our characters, even if only a shadowy aspect of ourselves, and “spaghetti on the wall first drafts” that dismay our inner perfectionists. Thanks for catching the ball, Jill, and passing it on. I’m looking forward to what Michele has to say next week.


    • Mary, thanks for reading! This was fun to write and great to ponder — I appreciate you tagging me. I love our similarities as writers! I have to say, without morning pages and coffee, my day just doesn’t seem quite right. πŸ™‚


    • Ellen, thanks so much for reading! I’m glad you stopped by. I know, I don’t know where I’ll be if I ever develop an intolerance to coffee — God forbid! πŸ™‚


  2. Beautiful post Jill, and plenty to ponder here. I definitely resonate with the idea of writing to get to know and understand myself better, and coffee is a no brainer:-) I remember I wrote a book of poems when I was about 8 or 9 that I photocopied (my Dad had just got a photocopying machine for his work), stapled and coloured in (it had pictures too – not my strength!). I still have a copy somewhere. Poetry remains the core of my writing, and I write it to capture what I can’t ‘keep’ in any other way. I wrap up experiences in those words so I can live them again, revisit them, learn from them and offer them to others too. Blessings my friend:-) H xxx


    • Harula, I just love how you describe why you write poetry — “to capture what I can’t ‘keep’ in any other way.” Wow. That’s so beautiful and in many ways I think it’s why I do so much journaling. I love your story of photocopying your first book of poems! Thanks so much for sharing your “why”, and for reading, as always! Hugs. πŸ™‚


  3. Hi Jill, I haven’t been to your site in awhile and was glad to visit again tonight. I always love your posts!


  4. Pingback: Why I Write: The My Writing Process Blog Tour | Writing a Life

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