How would you characterize your process? Are you the type of person who spends a lot of time perfecting as you go, or do you switch up what you're doing as you type?
I don't really have a process. I wish I had a process! It would be nice if I were someone with a process, someone with great discipline who never failed to work from 8 every morning until 10 every night.
Sometimes I wake up with an almost fully formed something rolling around in my head and I run to the computer to get it down. (That's a good day.) Sometimes I overhear a phrase or make an association between two things and scribble it down for later. In coat pockets or the bottom of my purse I often find Post-it notes or CVS receipts scribbled up with my worst handwriting. Sometimes I have no idea what they say, or no memory of writing them.
I'm not constantly cranking out work, and I feel like that's okay—that sometimes we value quantity too much.
Probably the most useful thing I do is keep a working document that I drop ideas and images and specific lines into. It's about 80 pages long right now. Most of the time I'm adding bits—an idea for a poem, a snippet from a Post-it note I actually can decipher, two lines of I don't know what—but from time to time I'll review the whole thing and see what might link up and start sewing those words together.
Once I write a draft, I keep it around for a while. Sometimes a few weeks, usually a few months, sometimes more. I'm not constantly cranking out work, and I feel like that's okay—that sometimes we value quantity too much. I like to put a draft aside and kind of forget about it, then come back to it and think about other forms or word choices when I can see it with fresh eyes.
Bigfoot for Women (which comes out this fall from Orange Monkey Publishing) started happening when I realized some poems I'd written worked well together. I then I started thinking about the arc of a book. I went to Staples and got a binder and pulled out the three-hole punch and started making outlines for new poems, which was something I'd never done before. Then I rented a little place in Provincetown in the middle of December and lived this very ascetic life for a week and made myself crank out all the drafts I needed. Once or twice I went to the public library there (which is very nice, and the librarians were very nice) and printed out the new work then took it back to the cottage I was renting and laid the pages out on the floor in rows. I spent hours staring at these rows of pages, picking one up, marking it up for an hour, moving it somewhere else, going to the computer and writing something new. I worked all day and didn't talk to anyone and when it got dark at 4:00 p.m. I made dinner and went to bed and read then got up early and did it again. It was very organized, hard work, but in addition to being super intense and soul-searchy it was maybe the most satisfying writing experience I've had.
I have a full-time job and a family and I find it hard to find time to write when I actually feel inspired, which is sometimes frustrating. Finding that time was much easier when I was freelancing for a living. So I'm thinking about sequestering myself again somewhere soon, but I want to get a better idea of what I want to do during that time first, so I can use it well.