It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…to be tagged in a Blog Author Tour. I’ve been out of commission the last couple weeks while dragging a three year old and an almost one year old across the country only to return the day before my in-laws arrive for a two-week visit. Somewhere in the middle is my son’s first birthday party, which I have yet to plan beyond the save-the-date stage. I tend to be a very organized and structured person, but with two little kids the chaos is never far away. So when the crazy inevitably takes over my life I find myself completely ill-equipped for dealing with such things. Needless to say, I’ve been a little absent from the blogosphere lately.
One of the gems I missed during my ostrich-like head-in-the-sand phase was the Blog Author Tour making its rounds through my favorite bloggers. I might have remained ignorant of this particular phenomenon (and it certainly wouldn’t have been the first time!) if my friend Angela from Writer Mom Blog hadn’t tagged me. I’m so glad she did because I think it can be very beneficial as a writer to realize that writing styles are like snowflakes: no two are exactly the same. As a relative newcomer to the blogging world, I’m just starting to appreciate how uniquely personal is a writer’s style and routine. In fact, I’m still learning about my own.
There have been many wonderful examples of writing styles generously shared with us by a multitude of different writers. I thought it might be fun to do something a little different with my piece.
What if I compared and contrasted two very different, but equally (hopefully!) productive writing styles right here in the same post?
I’ve enlisted the help of my good friend and fellow writer, Meg of Megsanity. Women, psychology and expletives, to demonstrate how different two writing styles and blogging strategies can be. If you haven’t already, check out Meg’s hilarious and informative psychology blog. She has a wonderful ability to break down even the most complex and challenging mental health issues to their core and makes them accessible to everyone. Even better, she’ll have you laughing while you’re learning. I could have used more teachers like her when I was in high school!
Below are the questions circulating with this Author Tour and my diligently crafted answers, followed by what I am sure will be equally diligent answers from Meg, so you can see how different two writers can be!
So, stop! Collaborate and listen. Vanilla Ice says you won’t be disappointed.
Mary: What Am I Working On?
Other than working to climb out from under the massive pile of emails I have collected during my absence, I have several projects in the works. It seems like in the four short months I’ve been blogging, I find new and wonderful places to share my voice every day. I am still adjusting to the idea that I can brain vomit my thoughts directly onto the computer screen, hit “publish” and reach hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people who read it…willingly. I’m not even sure my dog enjoys listening to me ramble on, so I can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised I am every time someone reads one of my pieces. In fact, I think I might be a little addicted to writing. Like any addict, I just can’t seem to say no to any opportunity to share my writing with a new audience. I search them out. At the moment, I have several guest posts percolating in my brain, four anthology submissions, and I’m a regular contributor on a great new site called BLUNTmoms. I’m also dying to start working on my first novel, once I have more than an hour a day without small children climbing on me like a jungle gym. I should probably write something for my own blog sometime as well. Not to mention the Huffington Post. Phew, I’m tired just thinking about it.
Mary: How Does My Work Differ From Others In My Genre?
Well, I’m not the most inventive or creative writer on the block. I’ve always been in awe of the writers who can give birth to entirely new worlds filled with creatures and characters no one has ever dreamt of before. I love reading thrillers, fantasy, and mystery novels. I read them because I could never write them. What I can do (seemingly!) is take the ordinary, every day, challenges of life and find the humor in them. I hope that I can describe my life to you in such painfully fine detail that you can imagine yourself walking in my shoes, then laugh with me when you inevitably step in the same pile of smooshed prunes. (God, I hope that’s what it is!) We all struggle and we all feel frustrated and isolated every now and then. What I have to offer my readers is camaraderie and a shoulder to cry on (mostly with laughter), and the knowledge that no matter what life throws our way it is a lot less scary if you approach it with a smile.
Mary: Why Do I Write What I Write?
Like I said before, I think that life would be a whole lot scarier without a sense of humor. It would also be a lot lonelier without the connections I’ve formed with my readers and fellow writers. Being a parent of small children is simultaneously the most claustrophobic and isolating experience I’ve ever had in my life. On the one hand, I haven’t showered alone during daylight hours in nearly four years. My bodily functions regularly attract an audience, and I have an eager conversation partner at my beck and call 12 hours a day, as long as I’m willing to talk about Thomas the Train, space, or Thomas the Train in space. On the other hand, I don’t even like Thomas the Train. I miss the hours of adult conversation I used to have with friends over a glass (or four!) of wine on a night out. I’m not even sure I remember how to drive in the dark; It’s been that long since I went out. Husbands are great, and supportive, but they’re not moms. There is an unshakable bond that forms between two people who have loaned their bodies out to another human being and been very disappointed in the condition in which they were returned. I love being a mommy blogger because it helps me find other moms to laugh with about my lopsided boobs, stray hairs, or newly discovered muffin top. Because if you can’t laugh at those things…you’ll cry.
Mary: How Does My Writing Process Work?
I’ve been dreading this question the entire time I’ve been writing this post. The truth is, I’m not really sure. I’m still learning what works best for me. I am, more often than not, a stream of consciousness writer. I use my spare brain cells (the one’s who just can’t think about Thomas the Train for ONE MORE SECOND!) throughout the day to come up with topics. Usually, this just involves paying attention to my three year old for a few minutes and waiting for him to do or say something hilarious, disgusting, or hilariously disgusting. I’m definitely not short on material. When the kids are finally in bed for the night I sit down in front of my computer and wait for the magic to happen. That is, assuming I can remember the thought I had earlier in the day. I’ve never been much for outlines and writing plans, which may come back to haunt me when I start trying to write longer pieces like a novel. I usually just come up with a concept for the piece, start typing, and see what comes out on the other side. I am my own first reader, as I usually don’t know how a piece is going to end until I get there. Of course, once the writing is done I have to go back and fix the oodles of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors riddled throughout my writing. I usually end up cutting out about a quarter of the material by the time I hit the “publish” button, but as you can tell from this piece, brevity is not my style. The most consistent aspect of my writing style is my almost inability to hold on to a finished piece without publishing it. I, like many writers, am desperate for immediate feedback. Once I’ve finished writing, it takes every once of willpower I have not to publish it immediately. Thankfully (for my readers!) I’ve found some very loyal editors who will give me my instant feedback along with some very helpful tips on tightening up the piece. Once my uncontrollable urge to prematurely share my piece has been sated, I cut out another 200 words or so and call it a day.
Take it away Meg!
Meg: How do I write? How don’t I write?
Yes, I understand that was not the question asked. However, I often have issues adhering to specific norms and mandates, including categorical questions. I have a moderate disdain for conformity. Or maybe I am just not the type of writer who works well within boundaries or constraints.
I’m not even writing on my own blog for fuck’s sake. Rules are for suckers. That said, I am going to try. Just for Mary. And also to not be a dick.
Anyway, my writing is often started on the post-it notes that I keep in my purse. I write notes in highlighter in the margins of the three or four books I read every week, I graffiti envelopes and notepads and occasionally the backs of receipts. My brain works faster than my hands, and apparently way faster than my ability to purchase real paper.
For my blog, I work best in the morning, before coffee or breakfast. I stand at the kitchen counter with my computer and use the cortisol high to pound out well-researched and occasionally intelligent psychology related articles, often from said post-its. I do it because I really, sincerely want to help people. I don’t write like other psychology blogs because I don’t think they resonate with the audiences that sometimes need it the most. People deserve better than to stress out wondering if they are normal because they can’t sit through stuffy research or understand how it applies to their life. Nothing de-stuffs psychology like dick jokes and the F bomb, though I sometimes have to go back and add jokes once I turn of the research clinician in me and wake up my “that’s what she said” alter ego.
My fiction writing is a completely different story. For the psychological thriller genre, my ideas flow best when under some level of duress, because my characters generally are. Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night, with some brilliant idea that I feel compelled to follow to fruition. Through several books, this has been a task undertaken in the light of a solitary computer screen or on the back deck with only the moonlight as a guide (and sometimes by candlelight). I do it for release, because my brain aches if I don’t.
Even talking about it sounds creepy.
Anyway, on those nights I scratch poetry into weathered notebooks, or outline a psychological profile for a deeply disturbed fictional character that would surely exist far better in such an environment, where solitary moonshine obliterates all else except for that person’s brain, a history of turmoil, a future path of psychopathy. And when they finally murder someone out on that dark, silent, back deck, I sometimes scare myself. Like a boss. And also like an asshole because the next morning I still have responsibilities and kids who need to eat three times a day and have someone prevent them from picking up poisonous snakes.
But at least I get to start the day writing about psychology at the kitchen counter. And if I help one person that day, it was worth getting up early for.
Mary: I hope you’ve found this tale of two bloggers with two very different styles helpful and informative. If not, I hope you’ve at least had a laugh or two at my expense. I have been told to tag two other authors, so next week, the Blog Author Tour will continue with Daddy Anarchy and Abandoning Pretense. Keep you eyes peeled because you won’t want to miss it!
Meg: Hopefully next week, Jennifer Dyer Books, Mommy Needs Whine Not Wine, One Valium at a Time and Food Retro will share their writing process, because I am interested in what those lovely ladies have to say. Yes, I understand that is more than two people. The man isn’t going to hold me down.
Mary: And speaking of rule breaking and impatience, Meg and I decided we couldn’t wait until next week to post our little collaboration. I’m sorry.
Meg: I’m not. I’m super proud of Mary with her newfound rule breaking shenanigans. Who’s the rebel now?
Megsanity is the alias of a mommy/shrink with an occasionally creepy writing style. She needed an anonymous outlet where it was acceptable to drop the F-bomb like it’s hot so she started Megsanity. Women, psychology and expletives. (Subscribe, you’ll like it). You can also find her on Facebook.