— Jenny Neill

How come? Still my Favorite Question

Justine Ickes, to the best of my knowledge, was the first to approach me about the Writing Process Blog Tour. We met through mutual friend and writing teacher, Amanda Castleman. I had to dodge her in this earlier virtual game of writer tag because paying deadlines took priority to stopping to reflect about my process.

Weeks went by and I witnessed the meme continuing to wind its way through the blogs of writers I know well and some I’ve discovered along the way. This month, when Esther Helfgott put out a call for writers to volunteer to be tagged, I had the time to answer. Thanks to you, Esther, for keeping the meme going and inviting me to play.

What are you working on?
This is a slow time for me. My next deadline is in a few days and the one furthest away is next February. I am in the early stages of research and reporting for about six features. I am developing at least that many more ideas as possible pitches. I’m always looking for “news of the moment” for a magazine section I edit.

This month I’m taking a “semi-sabbatical” to prepare for a sponsored trip to South America. My “to do list” also includes learning some basic conversational Spanish, a skill that I consider essential to building a better rapport with contacts I already have and those I hope to make while traveling.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?
That is a hard question to answer for me. It assumes I have one genre, or that I am at least focused on only one. I’m not. I’ve acted as a ghost writer for others. I’ve produced many types of content for corporations, small businesses and individual clients. I also write under my own name, covering a range of subjects, but almost always stories that involve food, travel, business, or technology. Or some combination thereof.

I enjoy the process of looking for truth, or at least the facts and cultural realities as we can understand them in this moment, and figuring out how to communicate something I just learned to others.

I have liked words and playing with words ever since I first put pen to letter puzzles as a child. Also, I’d never stop researching if I didn’t have deadlines. I fancy myself part historian, part scientist, part entrepreneur—100% curious.

Why do you write what you do?
I write to comprehend. Even in my most personal writing, those scraps of paper or notebooks in which I take up a pen or pencil to spew out observations or opinions, I do it to see if I can make sense of something that challenges my ability to understand it.

Also, I write for my own amusement—just to play with words on a page. The forms are as varied as my interests: poems, bits of fiction, even some prose fragments I envision one day turning into a full-length essay or memoir.

How does your writing process work?
Read, scribble, ask; repeat.

The “ask” part is perhaps the most important one. I ask myself questions. I question my questions and assumptions. Then, I take my questions out into the world and talk to others. In a lot of ways, the “read” part is a covert way to try to find answers before I go out and start the reporting process.

I’m also a productive procrastinator. As much as I like to play with words, as much as I scribble stuff out on sticky notes or a whiteboard, those lightning bolt moments when I figure it (whatever it is) out, happen while I’m doing anything but writing. Maybe I’m taking a shower or doing the dishes or getting a mundane errand done or running.

Some days, this all feels like I’m thrashing around in a frustrated state of knowing nothing. I am often plagued with the sense of “there’s nothing here—nothing new, nothing interesting, nothing anyone would care to read.” It is those moments that it is the most important to take one of two actions: dig even deeper or look completely away. Then, when the words start flowing, I write. And, once they stop, I walk away for a bit (an hour or a day) to shift my mental context and I come back with figurative red pen in hand to revise until it’s time to let go and send my words off into the hands of my client or my editor.

Next up: Vickey, Renee, and Yael
Now, to play the meme forward, I’m delighted to introduce you to three more writers.

Vickey Kall
Vickey Kall has a passion for history and research. Her first book, Death Speaker; A Novel of Ancient Gaul, takes us back 2000 year to follow the adventures of a Celtic woman who hears the dead. As Romans begin their conquest of her land, she warns druids and kings about the coming destruction.

Her latest book is nonfiction. The Boomer Book of Christmas Memories gives all the back stories and secret histories of Baby Boomer holiday fads like aluminum Christmas trees, Slinkies, Bubblelites, Green Bean Casseroles, and more.

Vickey also writes for magazines, encyclopedias, and books of history and trivia.

Renée Camus
Renée Camus is a freelance writer, former dancer, and pop culture junkie living in Burbank, California, with her animator husband and three beautiful cats. She writes about entertainment for Reel Life with Jane and Los Angeles Magazine, and discusses dance and geek culture on her blog at Geek Adjacent. She also has a YouTube Channel. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at @camusr6. Or find her on Google+ and LinkedIn.

Yael Grauer
Yael Grauer writes about world-changing tech startups, strategic content marketing, and cutting-edge fitness and nutrition research. She also works as an editor for publishers, agencies, and brands. Check out her portfolio too.