Mojo Monday: Don DeLillo’s Writerhead

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


Yep, Don DeLillo talked about his purest writerhead in a Paris Review interview. Love this! (to read full interview, click here)

INTERVIEWER

Athletes—basketball players, football players—talk about “getting into the zone.” Is there a writer’s zone you get into?

DeLILLO

There’s a zone I aspire to. Finding it is another question. It’s a state of automatic writing, and it represents the paradox that’s at the center of a writer’s consciousness—this writer’s anyway. First you look for discipline and control. You want to exercise your will, bend the language your way, bend the world your way. You want to control the flow of impulses, images, words, faces, ideas. But there’s a higher place, a secret aspiration. You want to let go. You want to lose yourself in language, become a carrier or messenger. The best moments involve a loss of control. It’s a kind of rapture, and it can happen with words and phrases fairly often—completely surprising combinations that make a higher kind of sense, that come to you out of nowhere. But rarely for extended periods, for paragraphs and pages—I think poets must have more access to this state than novelists do. In End Zone, a number of characters play a game of touch football in a snowstorm. There’s nothing rapturous or magical about the writing. The writing is simple. But I wrote the passage, maybe five or six pages, in a state of pure momentum, without the slightest pause or deliberation.

Writerhead Wednesday: The New Season Launches Next Week

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.


Although I refuse to admit that summer may be heading to a close in just a few short weeks, I am happy to announce that the fall season of Writerhead Wednesday will launch next Wednesday, August 29, with none other than (drum roll, please)…

Erika Robuck

Erika’s second novel HEMINGWAY’S GIRL is due in bookstores during the first week of September. You, lovely readers, will be lucky enough next week to tiptoe into her writerhead.

See you next Wednesday!

Writerhead Wednesday: OMG, It’s STILL on Summer Hiatus

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.


Yes, yes, it’s true! As I told you last week and the week before, Writerhead Wednesday is on summer hiatus. It hurts not to have that weekly boost of creative juice, I know, but it will be back. Promise! And ooh, it’s going to be good!

In the meantime, pop on over to my WRITERHEAD board on Pinterest. It’s kinda fun, if I do say so myself.

Happy summering! Happy writerhead!

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Cher Fischer

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.


About Cher Fischer’s debut novel Falling Into Green, the Huffington Post says, “[Falling Into Green] is an eco-mystery set at a fast pace, punched through with staccato sentences, twisting plot, shifting landscape, and a mighty heroine for the 21st century.”

Now listen to what author Cher Fischer has to say about her writerhead.

Remember…no talking! And pay close attention. There just may be a quiz at the end.

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

Writerhead is the “river” for me. I see it as a river. I always have the choice to jump in, or not. When I first started visualizing a river, it used to scare me a bit. I’d see myself stand next to the clear, rushing water, then tentatively stick a toe in, knowing that if I actually took the plunge and jumped, something in my life would change, because the river would carry me away to who knows where? So I’d hesitate. And in that moment of hesitation, the river itself would be gone. I actually hesitated for years, while still trying to write. But the text that I wrote would be stilted, jumbled, forced—no flow. No river current. Needless to say, my first work(s) were not good. I was rejected more than a few times, because the river that needs to carry both the writer and the reader’s imagination away—just wasn’t there. I distinctly remember when I finally allowed myself to jump into the river. It was in grad school for psychology, writing my master’s thesis on a subject very close to me—the peaceful behaviors of the bonobo chimpanzee—and I wanted the thesis to really resonate on a visceral level for people because the bonobo is on the verge of extinction, so I had to let my fear go and jump into that river! I walked up to the rushing water, threw myself in, and let my mind run with the waves and ripple over rocks and lay smooth in placid pools. I was told later that my thesis was able to carry a few other minds forth with the thought of protecting the bonobo. So that was my first experience of writerhead: the powerful current in the river. Now, I enjoy riding the waves, jump in every chance I get, which could be an apt lead-in for the next question…

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

Sometimes, my husband thinks I’m drowning in the river. Not literally, of course—but definitely figuratively. He casts out lifelines to me: a sandwich, coffee, or a question about a bill. I say, “Can’t the bill wait until later?” He’ll smile, knowing I’m still alive, swimmingly so. My two dogs, however, aren’t concerned for my safety; they’re simply annoyed that I’m writing at all since they feel if I’m out of bed, I should be walking them—even if I’ve just taken them for a four-mile hike! They make sure to create a big doggie show right next to my writing chair, they wrestle and roll, their athletic tumbles shaking the house, and I’m convinced that if they could, they would holler, “We want attention!” I figure that’s also what my husband wants, especially when he queries about the bill. My son, on the other hand, who’s nine and has the right to clamor for attention, likes to write himself, so while I write, he writes, lost in his own writerhead. One day, I’ll ask him what writerhead means to him. But for now, I don’t interfere with the process.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

For me, writerhead is like being a salmon on a salmon run except I never feel as if I’m swimming upstream.

BIO:  Cher Fischer is an ecopsychologist who received her doctorate in clinical psychology in 2004. She was a professor of psychology at Ryokan College in Los Angeles and has worked with at-risk families and children as well as practiced health psychology in several hospitals.

She is the author, with Heather Waite, of Moving from Fear to Courage: Transcendent Moments of Change in the Lives of Women (Wildcat Canyon Press, 2001), which was a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Born near a Superfund site in Spokane, Washington, and raised amid the lush nature of Minnesota, Fischer has long been involved in environmental issues and is passionate about the green movement in the United States. She is currently the head of the Green Team at her son’s elementary school, which is implementing sustainable strategies in the classrooms and throughout the campus. Falling Into Green is her first novel.

To learn more, visit Cher at her website or give her a wave on Facebook.

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.


Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers has been called many things: “Lucid and lovely” by The Wall Street Journal; “A fascinating debut…” by O Magazine; and “A moving and beautifully written portrayal of the frailty—and the hardness—of the human spirit” by The Daily Telegraph (UK).

Oh, so right!

Please give a hearty welcome to Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

I wrote The Language of Flowers in my office in Sacramento, California. Everyday at noon, my babies asleep in their cribs, I would tiptoe into my office, close the glass door, sit in my burgundy velvet chair, and flip open my laptop. Even now I miss the feeling of double-clicking the word document on my desktop, the rush of peace I felt as the title page opened before my eyes. I’d scroll down to the sentence where I left off—I tried to always stop in the middle of a sentence so that I wouldn’t have trouble remembering where I was—and start writing. When I am at my best, the feeling I get when I am writing most closely resembles reading. The story exists, and I am just moving forward into the story learning more and more with each passing moment.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

As a parent to a newborn, a one-year-old, and two teenagers, my entire life was interruptions. I became good at pausing my thoughts and taking them back up in another, quieter moment. I will say though, that occasionally my daughter would wake too early or in the middle of some big idea, and I would pull her into my lap and say: “Want to hear a story about Victoria?” I would read aloud to her the words I typed furiously out onto the page, trying desperately to finish a thought before she lost attention and demanded more of me.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

For me, writerhead is like high mountain air, making you feel slightly dizzy and almost painfully alive.

BIO: To write The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh found inspiration in her own experiences as a foster mother. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford University, Vanessa taught art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is her first novel.

To tell Vanessa how much you love her book or to ask her a question about her writerhead, follow her Twitter (@VDiffenbaugh), visit her on Facebook, and, of course, check out her website.

Mojo Monday: Get Inspired…Do Something

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.


Last Thursday evening, I gave my first-ever Writerhead presentation at PechaKucha at River Tree Arts in Kennebunkport, Maine. It was fantabulous! (I’ll be talking about Writerhead again in a few weeks at the Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster, PA. Come on out!)

One of the things I (re-)realized during the presentation was that DOING something creative gets me into writerhead. There I was, getting into writerhead while giving a presentation about writerhead.

So for you today? Two creative opportunities for you to DO something…and the promise that DOING something will help shift you into writerhead.

KICK-ASS CREATIVE OPPORTUNITY #1 / The “Immersion” Writing Contest at Brevity.com

Details from Brevity.com.

“To celebrate Robin Hemley’s new book, A Field Guide for Immersion Writing: Memoir, Journalism, and Travel, we are launching a quick contest. You have one month, until May 11th, to immerse yourself, in something. If it is water, be sure that you can swim. If it is honey, watch out for bears.

“Here are the details:

“For centuries writers have used participatory experience as a lens through which to better see the world at large and as a means of exploring the self. Immersion writing encompasses Immersion Memoir (in which the writer uses participatory experience to write about the Self), Immersion Journalism (in which the writer uses the Self to write about the world), and Travel Writing (a bit of both: the writer in the world and the world in the writer). Types of immersion writing within these broad categories include: the Reenactment, the Experiment, the Quest, the Investigation, and the Infiltration.”

For complete details, visit Brevity. (Quickie Info: 500 words due by May 11, 2012! Get busy! Immerse yourself!)

Bonus: You could win a showercap!

* * * *

KICK-ASS CREATIVE OPPORTUNITY #2 / “The Great Outdoors Photo Competition”

Yep, photos, not writing for this contest. Of the great, grand, gorgeous outdoors.

Photos of a cutthroat trout, bison, the sky, a lily, your cousin leaping over a creek, elk in rut, green leaves, etc.

For complete details, visit The Great Outdoors Photo Competition. (Quickie Info: Photos due by May 10, 2012.)

_____

Image: arztsamui / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring John Colman Wood

Shhhh. I know it’s exciting to have John Colman Wood—author of The Names of Things—at Writerhead today, but you’re still expected to be quiet while we listen in on his writerhead. Don’t worry…there will be plenty of time for questions and rousing applause at the end.

So sit back. Pour yourself a cup of coffee. And enjoy.

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

Let me start with a disclaimer: anything I say about writerhead is bound to be nonsense. But I’m an academic, and the risk of uttering nonsense never stopped me. It’s a serious point, however, about nonsense.

First, writing about writing isn’t writing. Not really. It’s something else, like loving the idea of loving isn’t loving, or that imagining happiness isn’t happiness. Second, writing about writing requires a self consciousness that is, I believe, antithetical to the state of mind that occurs when one is lost in the act, which is what I think you mean by the term writerhead.

In other words, trying to adopt a writer’s state of mind is one way to make it go away. So I suppose “getting lost” comes closer to writer’s mind than anything else I can think of. More on that below.

In any case, it rarely happens to me. And when it does, it never lasts longer than a few seconds, a minute at most. When it happens, I am always caught up in something, so focused, so unselfconscious that I’m not thinking at all, just doing. Of course, as soon as that happens, and the right words are falling from the tree, I almost immediately think “Ah, this is great! Now I’m writing” and then puff, the moment vanishes, killed by a thought.

Ironically, this writerly state of mind seldom occurs when I am at a desk with pen, computer, or typewriter at hand. Rather, a word, an image, a sentence, a next paragraph, a turn of plot is more likely to fall from the sky when I’m out walking. Just walking. I am not very writerly when I am writing, and I do my best writing when I am not.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

When I am writing, my distractible mind looks something like this:

First I have to make coffee. It’s good for about ten or fifteen minutes of keyboard avoidance. The switch on the coffee maker is unreliable. The thing turns off in the middle of brewing. Since only half the water has filtered through, the coffee is twice as strong. That’s not bad if you like strong coffee, as I do, which is probably why I haven’t replaced the thing.

With a fresh cup of tar in hand, I turn to my desk and a story I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks. I like a clean desk. I mostly work on a laptop, which sits, half-cocked, front and center. There’s a lamp to the left, a couple of sharp pencils and a legal pad to the right, the coffee within easy reach beyond. That’s it. The world is now well ordered.

The story is about a girl I sat beside about forty years ago in seventh-grade English. My family had just moved to a big city from a small town. Everything was new and frightening.

The teacher’s name was Mr. Defoe. He had a bald head and wore a white shirt, striped tie, black trousers, and black wingtip shoes.

There’s a knock at the door. This is typical. There’s always a knock at the door. A driver from Fed-Ex offers me an envelope in exchange for a signature. He smiles, comments on the weather, thanks me, and skips back to the van like he’s done me a great favor. I sit at the desk and calculate that I’ve just paid fifteen bucks for the privilege of being interrupted. The coffee’s cold.

The school was generations old: dark wood, flaking paint, blackboard pitted and gouged so the chalk broke in Mr. Defoe’s hand. The tall windows were greasy from city air.

I tinker with the last sentence. The windows started out “fogged with city breath” but I had something dirtier in mind, so I changed “fog” to “grease” and decided not to personify the city but just give it dirty air.

I need to pee. I take along my cup to fill in the kitchen.

While I stand in front of the toilet I think of a writer who spoke years ago at the university where I was a graduate student. He was South Asian, a famous guy, and we all wanted to meet him. At the party afterward, I remember watching him talk with one of the professors. The famous writer had a glass in his hand, and as he listened he kept sipping from the glass though there wasn’t any more whiskey in it, just ice. He chewed on chunks of ice, spoke occasionally, and otherwise nodded at whatever was being said. His lips curled into an attentive frown as he chewed. It seemed such a human thing to do, his chewing on ice, and it surprised me because he was such an admired figure, hardly human at all.

Why I think of him now after so many years I don’t know, except maybe my stance in front of the toilet reminded me of his in front of that professor.

Back at my desk I pick up where I left off.

The girl, in contrast to Mr. Defoe, was blonde and small and sunny. She wore a skirt and blouse and penny loafers with shiny pennies in their eyes.

Those two sentences take all of half a minute to type. I read them over. Then a gurgling noise from the bathroom draws my attention. You must think me lavacentric, if that’s a word. I’m not. It’s just that the bathroom is near the study, and I use it often because of all the coffee I drink. I jiggle the handle and return to my desk.

She had slightly crooked front teeth—a tiny, distinctive flaw that made everything else about her perfect. She smiled almost all the time but was self-conscious of her teeth, so she’d smile and then wrap her upper lip around them in a bashful way, like she was trying to hide her smile.

I read that over. The work so far today has taken half an hour. It’s all descriptive. Straight forward. Nothing fancy. I like the bit about her smile. It’s the best of what I’ve written today, and it came by accident. I didn’t set out to write it, wasn’t thinking of her smile when I started.

Now the kid two doors north has begun to practice his drums. He would, wouldn’t he? It’s two-thirty in the afternoon, which seems early. But there he is. He’s beating away without rhythm. It sounds like a lot of stuff that’s been piled on shelves in their garage is crashing to the concrete floor, only it keeps crashing.

It’s time to take the dog for a walk.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

I think writerhead is a matter of getting lost. You need to set off in one direction and then, sometime later, find yourself somewhere else. In that sense writing is like walking.

It is pointless, while walking, to intend to get lost. The intention itself keeps track of where you are. I’ve tried to get lost. I write about place and space, and several times I’ve thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to get lost and see what that’s like, to find my way back. Can’t be done. I’ve been lost, of course, just not by intention. I think it’s just as pointless and for the same reasons to try to get lost while writing.

You can, however, let it happen. You can allow intention to lapse, just as you can wander into an unfamiliar forest and walk and walk, thinking about other things and, after a while, find yourself lost. It happens to people two or three times a year in the forests near where I live. They go in, lose track of where they are, and they’re lost.

I think it’s important to get lost while writing. At the risk of sounding Taoist, you can’t find your way unless at first you’re lost. The kind of writing I do is always a matter of finding my way. I seldom know where I am. And it is relatively easy to get lost while writing (without really trying) because, let’s face it, there’s so little at stake. We can always decide that what we’ve written while finding our way is nonsense, and then we can toss it in the trash.

BIO: John Colman Wood teaches at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. His research with Gabra nomads of Northeast Africa has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. His fiction has appeared in Anthropology and Humanism. He has twice won the Ethnographic Fiction Prize of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. He is the author of When Men Are Women: Manhood among Gabra Nomads of East Africa (University of Wisconsin Press, 1999). Before becoming an anthropologist, Wood was a journalist.

To learn more, visit John’s blog Im/placed: Identities in space and place or his publisher’s site at Ashland Creek Press.

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Ned Stuckey-French

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.


Back in February, I featured fiction writer Elizabeth Stuckey-French here on Writerhead Wednesday. Today, I’m thrilled to welcome the other half of that brilliant writerly equation: Elizabeth’s husband, Ned Stuckey-French. I’ve been a fan of Ned’s work for a good while, but recently I’ve also become a fan of his insightful (and funny ha ha) commentary about nonfiction / creative nonfiction / essays / truth / etc. (You can often find him over at Brevity magazine…)

So kick back, my writerhead fans, and enjoy…because as I suspected, Ned’s description of his writerhead is like everything else he writes: addictive.

Now, shush!

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

When she answered this question for you, my wife, Elizabeth, said her writerhead never turned off. The same is true for me, but mine is different. Mine is less purely imaginative and more relentlessly interpretive. She’s a fiction writer; I’m a nonfiction writer, an essayist, and cultural historian. I’m also more of an analyzer and an arguer than she is. Which is not to say I don’t imagine. I do and much of what I love about the cultural history I write is that I get to spend long afternoons with Thurber and E. B. White in their little office at the New Yorker, smelling cigarette smoke and listening to the paper wads hit the metal trash can, or drinking with Dottie Parker and Bob Benchley at the Algonquin as we try to ignore the oogling tourists.

Much of the time, however, my writerhead is trying to think about what I really think, what I really believe. I am an essayist and so skepticism is where I live. I turn things over constantly. I am constantly watching myself, listening to myself. A part of me is always sitting in the press box of my own game, doing play-by-play and color commentary. It started when I was a kid shooting baskets in the driveway. 3 – 2 – 1… French stops, pops. It’s good!

But if am skeptical and questioning, I am also hopeful. I’m a very political person and believe in possibility of progress. Elizabeth teases me constantly about how earnest I am. I am the son of Stevensonian Democrats. My family vacationed in Concord and Lexington, Valley Forge, and DC. We saw Sunrise at Campobello at the drive-in movie. My mom was a poll watcher for the League of Women Voters and as a toddler I sat with her on Election Day and colored pictures. Later, I was a Student Council nerd, shook Bobby Kennedy’s hand a month before he was shot, and then, transformed by the Sixties, became a communist trade union organizer for ten years. So, in my writerhead, I’m constantly refining my position, questioning myself, and others, and trying to figure out what makes sense and is convincing. Is that fair? Is this what I think? I am always, always turning such questions over in my head. They are my version of Montaigne’s Que sais-je?, or What do I know?

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

Life is all interruptions, or as John Lennon so nicely put it, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Life is about adjustment and so is writing. Or maybe revision is the better word. You make a plan and head off this way and then you’re interrupted by a grammatical error, some faulty logic, a limp and silly adjective, and you want to fix it. But, you’ve got to keep going to the end, knowing all the while that your first draft is mostly potholes and speed bumps. But, if you’ve got to keep the editor out of the room till you get a first draft (which Anne Lamott has so helpfully reminded us is always shitty), you must eventually let them back in. I’ve got two editors, by the way, a male and a female. She looks like a 7th grade English teacher. Her hair is up in a bun, where she keeps an extra pencil. He wears a green visor and looks like Bartleby. And while both are scolds, they are also part of my writerhead team.

So, writing is writing, but it is also revision. Montaigne did three editions of his essays, never cutting, only adding. An essay is a conversation, with your reader and yourself. It’s a fireside chat, a late night bull session that solves the world’s problems. In this conversation, you say something, then interrupt yourself or ask a question and then follow that digression. The talk eddies and curls and maybe it circles back and maybe it doesn’t, but it always keeps rollin’ along.

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

Well, I guess I’ve already offered a few—time travel, press box and game, conversation with self, river—but here’s another. Borges said, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Writerhead is Paradise. It’s where I like to be, and it’s kind of a library where I’m a kid again. I wander the aisles looking for one book, another catches my eye, I pull it down and begin reading, and soon find myself somewhere else, perhaps back at the Algonquin where everyone is a writer and so I start writing too.

BIO: Ned Stuckey-French teaches at Florida State University and is book review editor of Fourth Genre. He is the author of The American Essay in the American Century (Missouri, 2011), co-editor (with Carl Klaus) of Essayists on the Essay: Four Centuries of Commentary (Iowa, 2012), and coauthor (with Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French) of Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (Longman, 8th edition). His articles and essays have appeared in journals and magazines such as In These Times, Missouri Review, Iowa Review, culturefront, Pinch, and Guernica, and have been listed three times among the notable essays of the year in Best American Essays.

To learn more, visit Ned’s website. You can also give him a nod at his Facebook page or the Facebook page for his most recent book The American Essay in the American Century.

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Jacqueline Luckett

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.


I first learned about Jacqueline Luckett (and her new novel Passing Love) at Carleen Brice‘s blog White Readers Meet Black Writers…one of my go-to sites for good book recommendations. As I clicked from link to link—ultimately landing on Jacqueline’s website—I became more and more intrigued. There’s just something about this woman’s voice that draws you in (you’ll see what I mean below). By the time I’d absorbed the fact that Passing Love is about a woman who leaves her home country for another…and that it explores the world of expatriates in Paris…I knew I had to hear about Jacqueline’s writerhead. (If you follow this blog at all, you know I’m a sucker for anything expatriate.)

So, readers, settle back. You’re in for a glorious ride…

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

Like a bad boy lover who knows he’s got me hooked waiting for his call, his email, his text, his touch, writerhead takes its own sweet time to visit. I hunger for its return. There are days when I sit in front of my computer for hours, pecking away at mindless, empty scenes. Waiting. Just waiting, like I might for the sound of a lover’s personalized ringtone. And then…

Sometimes it happens when I sit in silence. Sometimes, if I’m alone, with others around me (cafés, writing retreats, and the like), writerhead comes swiftly. It spreads through my body like too many glasses of fine wine. It makes my blood rush in my ears, makes its way around my head, pushes words and scenes back down to my fingertips making them want to fly.

Thankfully, my State of Writerhead isn’t limited to my time in front of the computer. I can slip into it as I walk down the street or eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations or people-watch and lipread. Sometimes, I don’t know that I’ve slipped into writerhead until I’ve left it and sometimes not even then. Is that daydreaming? Does it matter? It did the time I wanted to use a sentence I found in my notes and couldn’t.

I keep track of new words and sentences that come to me in these moments that I’m in deep. The magical moment, for me, is when I’m able to take notes, observe, and create at the same time. Right then and there, I scribble notes and fuss because I’ve forgotten my notebook. So, I capture my thoughts on whatever is handy: notebooks, napkins, magazines, and newspapers. (I have several notes written on funeral programs.) Eventually, I file them, or retype and store them in a computer folder.

While writing Passing Love, I came across a wonderful sentence in one of those files. I loved the sentence. I wanted to use it in the novel. I loved its power and daring composition. Damn, it was good! I readied myself for the wonderful prose sure to follow this inspiration.

The note was typed, not handwritten. I waited.

The perfect sentence stood alone in the middle of a page. I couldn’t remember if I had written that sentence or if it was a quote from another author.

I couldn’t remember then.

I don’t remember now.

That is my state of writerhead: a fog, a spell from fairy dust, a missing moment. The precious time of getting lost in my head, of digging and seeing the furrow deepen, of writing sentences, paragraphs, and scenes where I have fallen so far into my imagination, that I don’t recognize my own words. I dearly love that time.

It doesn’t last long enough, and it doesn’t come everyday. But, ahhhh, when it does…

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

My mother will be ninety in the fall. Whenever my phone’s Caller ID displays her number, I answer regardless of what state I’m in.

“Are you busy?” This she asks, on nearly every call, after having chatted for five minutes about the weather, her last doctor’s appointment, or a tennis match.

“No.” Catholic school guilt lingers—I must follow the fourth commandment: Honor thy father and mother. I breathe. I wait. I listen.

She tells me what else is happening in her life. There are days when she calls because a friend has died, and she’s fretting over that loss and her own mortality. Maybe the cable company increased her bill by $1.49 and she’s fussing over that charge.

After we hang up, the lost writerhead state may or may not return. No matter. It’s my mom, and I love her. I smile and feel grateful that she’s still in my life.

But any one else? Any one whose call I happen to answer out of reflex or expectation of my mother’s follow-up call? Anyone who asks—knowing that writing occupies most of my day—“What are you doing?” and I realize that I shouldn’t have answered the phone…

I GET CRANKY @#$*!!!

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

For me, writerhead is like falling into a pink cotton candy machine with no awareness of body or possible harm: whirling and whirling, bumping and gathering the soft, wispy, delicious matter, until my head is full and fat. Just enjoying the sticky spin.

BIO: After leaving the corporate world, Jacqueline Luckett took a creative writing class on a dare, from herself, and began writing short stories and poetry and never looked back. The Northern California native travels as often as she can to nurture her passion for photography and exotic foods. Her essay, “Traveling with Ghosts,” was included in Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011. She is the author of two novels, Passing Love and Searching for Tina Turner.

Lucky for you there are all kinds of ways to connect with Jacqueline. Follow her on Twitter (@JackieLuckett). Visit her author page on Facebook. You can even subscribe to her newsletter.

 

Writerhead Wednesday: Pause for Station Identification

Usually on Wednesdays, this: Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.

But today, a bit of self-promotion instead.

A short story of mine (“Cherries Jubilee”) has just been published in the über-cool BIG LOVE BITES edition of HYPERTEXTMAG.com.

So whatcha doing lollygagging around here?

Scooch on over to HYPERTEXT. (Loads of great writing there…you could be reading all day.)

Read!

 

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Image: kibsri / FreeDigitalPhotos.net