Hey guys, today I have a guest post for you from Ann Pearlman, author of A Gift For My Sister, discussing her writing process. Enjoy. 🙂
How I write
I’m often asked how I write, how I am sufficiently disciplined to actually get books completed, so I thought I’d share some of my tricks and routines.
First, I’ve been writing since eighth grade, jonesing for the feeling I received completing an assignment. We were asked to write a thank you note for a painting our school received. The painting was of two girls sitting on a beach, behind them was the sea, stretching to the horizon. As I wrote about the sea I was transported into a sensation of taking dictation from the universe. Re-experiencing that sensation propels my writing. I write because I love it; I write because I want that feeling again. Weeks later, when I’m editing, I cannot tell which prose was awe-inspired and which was written prosaically.
For years, I didn’t have the luxury of writer’s block, stealing time to scribble notes in between my job, and running my kids around various activities after school. Each moment stolen to write was precious.
Then I discovered the glory of automatic writing: Get up early, before anyone else is up, and immediately write, do not edit yourself, just inscribe the words that come to you. The only things between dreams and writing were brushing my teeth and coffee. My language was richer so I habituated myself to write first thing in the morning. Slowly, I rescheduled my life around my writing, instead of pushing it between the edges of my other requirements of life. My kids growing up made that easier.
So I wake with the sun. I write at least five days a week. At least four hours a day. I don’t let myself be interrupted until I’ve done several hours. And then I’ll eat breakfast, answer calls, emails, twitters, etc.
Other tricks: I have words that I have forgotten, igonored in a bowl. I notice them once again in something I’ve read, write them down, and put them in a bowl. Occasionally, I pick one out to flutter (see, that was one…) into my prose.
If I get stuck, I drum. Yes, I play a Djembe hand drum and the repetitive rhythm seems to encourage ideas. So does jumping up and down on a trampoline.
I work out. This is important. After years on the computer, if I didn’t work out, do yoga, and use an ergonomically correct keyboard, I suspect I’d be crippled by carpal tunnel syndrome.
Music provides an added layer of texture to my setting. Writing Inside the Crips, I listened to the hip hop and gangsta rap ( Snoop Dog, Ice T, N.W.A. ) that set the rhythm and the texture of Colton’s life. Writing a scene that takes place in Detroit in the 70’s, I listen to the music of that time. (The Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin, Martha Reeves, ) Sometimes when I’m writing, sometimes when I’m driving or working out my ipod surrounds me with sounds that ebb the time and place into my soul. I ended up so entranced by the rhythm and rhymes of rap that Tara in A Gift for My Sister became a rap artist.
Writing is as much a part of me as breathing. Writing, even if it’s in my journal, imparts meaning to each day.
Ann Pearlman is a writer of both fiction, and non-fiction books and has been passionate about writing since eighth grade. Getting Free: Women and Psychotherapy was written with two colleagues and used as both a consciousness-raising book in the woman’s movement as well as college textbook. Keep the Home Fires Burning: How to Have an Affair With Your Spouse, garnered the attention of the Oprah Winfrey Show and many other TV talk shows. Her memoir, Infidelity, was nominated for National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize, and made into a Lifetime movie by Lionsgate. Inside the Crips, with a foreword by Ice T, took readers into the life of a Crip gang member and the California Prison system. The Christmas Cookie Club became an international bestseller, spawning cookie exchanges and donations to charity. The Christmas Cookie Cookbook: All the Rules and Delicious Recipes to Start Your Own Holiday Cookie Club was written with her friend, Marybeth Bayer, who is a terrific baker as well as the hostess of the cookie exchange Ann attends. A Gift for My Sister hit the stands in the U.S in the spring of 2012 to wonderful reviews.
Ann was born in Washington D.C. and, as a child, moved around several Midwestern cities, most notably Chicago and Pittsburgh. After moving to Cleveland, Toronto, Cincinnati, and Kalamazoo, she settled in Ann Arbor, where The Christmas Cookie Club is set. Ann received an undergraduate degree in Anthropology, and a graduate degree in Clinical Social Work and maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Ann Arbor. She studied writing at the University of Michigan, attended workshops at Sewanee and Squaw Valley Writers’ Conferences.
When she’s not writing, Ann makes art: metal sculptures, acrylic and watercolor paintings, jewelry, and altered books. Her art is seen throughout this site and can be viewed in the gallery. She also loves to dance to a wide assortment of music (blues, rock, rap, and classical) and work out. On a winter day in Ann Arbor, you can find Ann with her friends or family making homemade jams, cookies and inventing recipes. Or escaping the snow for a beach and snorkeling. Ann has three children and four grandchildren.