Nine Questions About Writing

In my mental description of my creative self, I identify as a musician, not a writer.  Despite all the writing I’ve done over the years that moniker never really feels authentic.

And why not?  Because I don’t have a degree in writing?  Because my work has only been published online?  Where’s the line I need to cross to feel comfortable calling myself a writer?

When I read this post by Nina Badzin (who I definitely consider a writer), I think I started owning the writer in me.  Her friend Kristen M. Ploetz started a meme of sorts with this post, to which I could completely relate.  She asks nine questions about the writing process, and a number of other bloggers have answered, either in the comments or in their own posts (like Nina, Zsofi, and Lindsey Mead).

I decided to chime in with my own answers:

1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet?

Sometimes.  If it’s a piece that I’m especially nervous about, or if I’m writing about him in some way, I’ll have him read it before publishing.  Though I have to admit that it’s not always such smooth sailing, as I’ve been known to be a little sensitive to or outright annoyed by suggestions on sentence structure.  I do welcome his opinions on substance, and I appreciate his input on sensitive or hot button topics.

If there’s a piece I’m particularly proud of, I’ll share it with him after it’s been published.

2. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback about it?

My family doesn’t go online that much, so they don’t really read my blog.  Very rarely, I will send them something I wrote, most likely a piece that’s been published on a national site (which doesn’t happen so frequently).

I do have some friends who read my blog, and have gotten the occasional email about it (thank you!).  That’s actually how I ended up submitting this piece to Aish.com, because a friend encouraged me to do so after reading this post.

3. What do you do with the pieces that continually get rejected–post on your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let it go?

I haven’t done enough submitting to have any pieces that have been continually rejected!  But there was a piece that Kveller didn’t want and I ended up putting it on my blog.

4. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?

Most of the places I’ve written for are Jewish sites, though the tones of the sites are quite different.  Still, they could potentially be modified if I wanted to.  I don’t think I could rework an overtly Jewish piece into a more universal one, though.  So I guess I’d just put in on my blog.  :)

5. What is your main source of reading-based inspiration (especially you essayists)? Blogs? Magazines? Journals? Anthologies? Book of essays by one writer?

I don’t read as many blogs as I would like, but I do read some Jewish magazines regularly, and I very much enjoy books of essays.  Most of the time when I read, I’m very passive, not consciously thinking about the writing.  A goal I have is to pay more attention to the writing that I like and think about what appeals to me.

6. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?

The vast majority of my content comes from my own life experiences.  Of course, this post is a result of something I read!   Maybe if I read more blogs, I’d find more inspiration for content.

7. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so under-appreciated?

I don’t know about under-appreciated, but I’ve really enjoyed reading Rebecca Klempner’s work.

8. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”?

Well, this is embarrassing.  I don’t know who any of those people are.  I haven’t actually read a book on craft.  But now I have some names to start with!  Ha.

9. Have you ever regretted having something published? Was it because of the content or the actual writing style/syntax? (Obviously we all grow as writers and looking back at our “clunkier” writing can be cringeworthy…that’s not what I’m talking about here. I mean are there things you wish you hadn’t said out loud either because of what you said or how you said it. I’m not in this position right now, but some things I’d like to write about might get me there. And yet…how can I ignore those topics, you know?)

Not really.  I was nervous about publishing this piece on Kveller, but the feedback turned out to be so overwhelmingly positive that I was very glad I had stepped out on a limb.  In general, though, I’ve avoided pieces that could possibly lead to regret.  Because they are scary.  But sometimes that’s where the best pieces are, the ones that resonate most with people:  In the scary zone.  And I’m going to be heading there again in the near(ish) future, so hopefully I won’t regret going there.  We’ll see.


I would love to hear your answers too!  Feel free to share in the comments section, or maybe you also want to write a post, in which case, feel free to share the link!

23 thoughts on “Nine Questions About Writing

  1. Love these questions and learn something from every set of answers. Thanks for sharing yours! I definitely struggle to embrace the identity of writer too. From what I can see, you are one!! xoxo

  2. I was just thinking I’m glad to have met Rebecca Klempner. Her writing voice is so solid.

    I regret publishing a piece about a medical procedure that my husband had. I thought the piece was funny: he felt it was hurtful and invaded his privacy. Now I try to respect his boundaries a bit more, which can be challenging.

    1. Oy, it’s so hard when we write something we think is funny isn’t received the same way by the subject of the writing.

      I’m so glad I got to be the shadchan for you and Rebecca! You’ve introduced me to so many people (including Nina, I think, maybe), I’m happy to be able to reciprocate. :)

  3. This is for anyone who (as I used to do) feels inauthentic calling herself a writer because she doesn’t have a degree in writing: http://flavorwire.com/329839/10-famous-authors-who-dropped-out-of-school Just sayin’. Rivki, you have something to say, and you say it with the written word. I used to define “Writer” as “one who has been published and paid for the work.” But even after that happened, I would make up new parameters so that I wouldn’t qualify. What’s THAT all about? We express ourselves in the written word — and this is one of our main hobbies (at least). Does a birdwatcher or a cook feel she cannot call herself that thing unless she can say it with a capital letter? Okay. My work here is done. ;-) Back to the post I’m working on…

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! And the link was quite interesting (I would’ve never associated Kerouac with football!). I did the same thing with the whole making up new parameters even after I’d been paid for writing and had regular deadlines to meet. Go figure!

  4. I’m so happy you chimed in! I am already somewhat familiar with your work via Nina, so I am glad to read and learn more about the “behind the scenes” kind of stuff here. I’m so with you on your last answer–it’s the scary zone where I know the good stuff lives. I’m walking there slowly–meet you there. :)

  5. I laughed at your answer about reading the experts on writing. Cute the way you answered that one. I definitely see you as a Writer par excellence.

    My husband is my unofficial editor of the stuff I submit to Binah magazine. I print out drafts for him to read and marks them up with comments and circles around words and paragraphs that he has issues with. I like his perspective because he’s a huge reader (science fiction and math books, but still!) so he knows clear writing.

  6. I had only gotten half-way through the post — due to candlelighting, dinner, and having to read the two posts you referenced by Nina and Kristen — and then I sat down to finish and saw my name mentioned. You made me cry…happy tears! Your positive attitude, really consistent posting, and insights have been inspirational for me, too.

  7. So happy to have discovered your blog via these questions from Kristen! I really enjoyed reading your answers and the articles you linked to. I can see why you might have been hesitant to submit the one to Kveller, but I think sometimes those vulnerable and raw (feeling) pieces hit the most nerves. Giving public voice to what, often, many others are silently experiencing, is a gift.

    Glad to be a reader of your words, you’re definitely a writer in my book :)

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