How I write

I haven’t written much besides these blog posts lately. The last time I did a serious revision was in May. I’m not too worried about my lack of writing this summer because I’ve been thinking about several pieces for a while now. I’ve also written outlines and notes, which has proven very very useful. I’ve never outlined before, but these seem less like outlines and more like lists of details from which to start associating.

One of my lists goes like this:

breakwater 1541 feet construction
santa barbara
merge 3 times a minute
poodles – “check to see if you still got 5 fingers?”
“dada – I see crab”

get me away from here I’m dying
I always cry at endings

lithe, brown skinned
pathfinder with kroq stickers, two coffee tables on the roof, foot rests on the side of the truck
water bottle – washing feet – eye contact
water seeps under the car

guy with karaoke
stage set up with stage lights
come back out to check locks
her mother is next to her
girl makes eye contact
berkeley sweatshirt, what good is it?

francisco’s
midway between fillmore and valencia
highway fruit stand, barn, girl with white shirt cashiering
plaster saint
welcome to my garden

strawberry flat
water faucet with sink
best strawberries ever

10 miles down the road
roadkill, perhaps a dog
coetzee’s “Disgrace”

There’s really not much there, but for me it’s key to have specific details from which I can draw a narrative. I don’t know if these things tell you any sort of story, but to me they’re basically mood indicators. I have feelings associated with the details, which are the most important part of the piece. The chronology doesn’t have to follow the fabula.

I like to write out of order. I don’t always do this, but sometimes I will freewrite on a certain subject that relates to the overall piece, and later, I’ll add what I’ve written into the narrative. I did this once when I wrote an essay about X. I began it very abstractly, and ended up not using that paragraph until two pages into the essay, where it ended up fitting perfectly. It just had that great juxtaposition of concrete and abstract, and I knew I had to start with something visual before I could transition into abstract commentary.

I feel like I’m always writing not only for an audience, but for myself. If I get bored with a piece, I’ll rewrite it so that it makes me interested. I think this is a really high standard, but it seems to work pretty well.