JIMIN HAN, one of the loveliest, most generous, and insightful people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet online and then, gloriously, IRL, tagged me for the MY WRITING PROCESS BLOG TOUR.
Jimin maintains a lyrical, meditative blog at Notes from the Stone Barn. Her short stories and essays can be found online at NPR’s Weekend America, The Rumpus, The Good Men Project, Karkita Review, and Korean American Story. Jimin teaches at Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute.
So, I’ll ask myself these questions, and then I’ll answer them, that’s how it works. OK?
OK. Here we go:
What are you working on?
(1) For the past two years, I have been working on and off on something I am calling a “lyrical co-consideration” of the lives and work of Francesca Woodman and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Both created compelling, provocative, and rich bodies of work that pushed boundaries and challenged existing conventions of the genres in which they worked. Both presented themselves as subject and object in their work. Both died tragically young.
(2) I have about three hundred pages of a messy, sprawling, fictionalized memoir-y thing that circles around the fragmented understanding I have of my own adoption from Korea as a child, my periodic attempts to search for my birth mother, and what it means, in mid-life, to let go of the fantasy of reunion.
(3) Recently, I have been working most consistently on a great many poems. I wish I could suggest that they might be a collection, but the most I can say is that they tend to be concerned with my current preoccupations, which include, among other things: weather, taxidermy, and desire. (Not necessarily all at the same time.)
(4) I have also been working steadily, for the past several months, on a series of collaborative poems with Eric Raymond. We take turns posting two lines at a time in a shared document and exchange notes on process and revision. It’s a kind of low-impact way to work on something that is different from our primary projects, raises different creative questions. So much of the work of writing is solitary business. I appreciate having something for which I am not the sole creative engine.
(5) For this reason, I also take great satisfaction in playing bass in the band WORKING. The group effort is a welcome respite from the generative requirements of writing alone. I consider this an important part of my creative life.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Oh, I don’t think that much about genre, and I don’t know. Maybe what I am doing differs from what some people are doing but is the same as what others are doing? (I am not always certain what I am doing, but it seems important to keep doing it.)
Why do you write what you do?
If I knew, I might be able to stop! I draw from a range of sources and tend to follow little paths as they present themselves. I don’t know that this is the best way to proceed, but it’s what I can do. Once, another writer called me “promiscuous in my interests.” I don’t think it was meant as a compliment, but I took it as one.
How does your writing process work?
I try to work in the morning, as early as possible. I try to leave myself assignments, prompts, little notes at the end of one session so that I know where to begin the next time, but I don’t always do this.
I read a lot. Although I do not always complete things, and I do not always read as well or as closely as I think I should.
At times, blogging regularly has helped – I’ve used this blog as a notebook of sorts, one in which I capture sketches and beginnings of things, exercises, false starts.
I have not always been good at this in the past, but in recent years, I have found that talking about what I am working on, worrying it with other writers, helps to open possibility. I am very lucky to have an in-house writing consultant, collaborator, and coach in Matthew Derby. I am always presenting him with some question or frustration over breakfast, or in the car on the way to the grocery store, and very often the co-articulation of the problem creates a way past it, or at least, suggests new avenues for exploration.
I also rely heavily upon the wise counsel of Kate Schapira and Tina Cane.
So now I tag three more people.
I was scowling in the third floor lounge of the VCFA dorm when Mo Duffy Cobb interrupted me, waving a beer bottle. “Do you have a bottle opener?” she asked. I did, in my room, but I didn’t want to get up. She sat down across from me. Extended her hand. Immediately started chatting, and what can I say? I was disarmed. I brought her the bottle opener. We toasted each other. And the rest is history. Travel with her through her beautiful blog.
I met Lauren Westerfield in Portland on the picture-perfect Reed College campus for the Tin House Writers Workshop. We were all in Maggie Nelson’s thrall that week. Lauren’s anatomical memoir drew me in from the start. A fearless, lyrical writer, perceptive and articulate reader, I was thrilled when she agreed to join me on the staff of The Rumpus.
Do you already know Kevin Fanning? If you don’t, I am telling you right now that you should buy up his books, you should follow him on twitter, and you should invite him out for spicy chicken wings at BonChon, but make sure you trash talk before about how much you will eat. It enhances the pleasure, I guarantee it. (It also helps to have Matthew Salesses with you, but now, he’s far away.)