Friday, August 29, 2014

Kielbasa, Pineapples, Doodling, and People like @SonyaHuber in my Tribe: Crandall's Writing Processes

Pineapple, Sonya, kielbasa, Cliff (Stratford friends)
Take a look at the photograph to the right. It will have something to do with what I'm writing towards the end of this post. Got it? Good?

This is my introduction and I hope I hooked you with this photo. $10 says that I didn't follow directions and I'm writing this blog entry completely wrong. Another $5 says I'm way off base and totally missed the mark. That's okay. I'm used to losing money on betting people that I'm a total moron. I have no problem with that. Ugly. Broke. Idiotic. I'm good with my existence, and you?

The way I read a challenge from my colleague Sonya Huber was to stop everything in my place and to rift on my writing processes. Then, rereading the call, I thought, "Wait. I think it's a reflection on the writing process of a current piece of writing I'm working on." Then I remembered an afternoon conversation I had with her about the ways I procrastinate by doing other things on my list that aren't as important as the thing I REALLY should be doing. I have a book chapter due Monday morning, another due next week, and recommendations due a.s.a.p. (Post script: I wrote my response before Sonya made a formal call to my name. Had I waited, I would have been able to add Kobo as the nickname to kielbasa).

What am I doing? I'm writing a blog post.

So going back to the first paragraph, perhaps I really am on target because one of my writing processes when needing to get a piece done is to totally distract myself with other projects: color coding my sock drawer, applying for grants I will never be able to get, stalking famous people I want to be like one day (and criticizing the fact I could never ever be famous because it would kill my soul), and contending with random chaos that pops out of nowhere.

Like yesterday: my new Subaru Cross Trek decided he was no longer Kermit (my frog) but Linda Blair from The Exorcist. It's only a month old and I love it, but yesterday, while humming Buddhist chants on I-95 to cope with driving to work (I ride in silence most days to curb the frustration), when Kermit - turned antichrist - decided to turn its radio on, full blast, on FOX news. Fox news! And loud. Scared the hell out of me and I practically jumped through the sunroof. Then it turned off. I thought, "Man, I'm going crazy in this traffic...I just imagined that...." and it came on again! This time each of the four speakers in the car played a different radio station on full volume. It was anarchy and I couldn't control the volume. I couldn't get the screaming to stop. When I turned the radio on, it added a loud buzzing noise as if my hybrid was an Apache helicopter hovering over the Long Island Sound.

And then it went off.



So, to repeat, one of my writing processes is to procrastinate by working on other projects that aren't as important, and another is to contend with insanity, which always seems to show itself when I'm 100% committed to having a totally focused day with my writing. Seriously, I was heading to my office to write. Instead, I ended up at the service department of Subaru for an exorcism.

Truth is, when I know I'm really serious about a writing project, I tend to doodle and draw out my thinking - this is how I plan for the day, too. Often, my notebooks are full of cartoons to explain what I hope to accomplish (an example of this is a doodle I wrote about on this blog that was inspired recently at a Humanitarian conference in Georgetown).

Procrastinate. Deal with chaos. Doodle.

Here's a bigger process. When I really, REALLY, need to write, one of my ways is tying things around my head. I've written about it before, but am repeating it here. My brain is so manic and wild, that I have to symbolically contain my thoughts through ropes, ties, hats, and even bags. In every project I take on, I know I will get the work done when I finally resort to looking like Pee Wee's Jambi - mekka lekka lekka hi mekka hiney ho. Colleagues in my hall have captured me in these moments, looking in and remarking, "You're in the groove, ain't you Crandall?" Yes, I may look like Jack Sparrow, but they know when I'm writing.

Recap, I'm procrastinating here, dealing with a chaotic day, and doodling with my thoughts on Huber's prompt, while contemplating tying something to my head. Definitely on track for the processes I take when writing.

Others in my CT tribe include Pam, Kathy, Shaun, Julie,
Ellen, Chitunga, Leo & Bev, Shirley (& others), CWP-Fairfield,
RLAC at Syracuse University, and the National Writing Project.
But then there's friends - the tribe - surrounding myself with people who inspire me, motivate me, entertain me, and make me feel totally normal. This is where the photograph from above comes in and where I will try to bring closure to my thinking. I got Sonya's prompt when I was at the Subaru dealership with Father O'Malley, Father Merrin, and Father Dyer who were doing catechism on Kermit and I began to think, "I'm totally in a Sonya and Cliff mood." But then I remembered their son likes kielbasa and I stopped at BJ's to get him an ample supply. While there, I noticed they have fresh pineapples and the tops, all bush-like and tropical, reminded me of a growth my mother had on her forehead one time, so I buy that, too, in order to share that story with Sonya and Cliff. (I also knew I had to tell them about Steve, a skin tag that was named a few weeks ago that I believe is karma paying me back for making fun of the pineapple that once grew out of my mother's forehead).

The result of all this is that I drive to Cliff and Sonya's and ask them to pose for a picture. "Why?" they wondered. Well, I told them, it's for my blog response to the challenge. The truth is, Sonya and Cliff are a part of my writing process because I gain momentum from spending time with inspirational people. Whereas most of my days in Connecticut are rather parochial and dull, I always find motivation when seeing Cliff and Sonya. It is reminiscent of my days when quirkier stories were alive and ubiquitous (aka The J. Graham Brown School). When I'm around funky, fabulous, original people, I feel rejuvenated to compose.

And somewhere along the way I realized that my writing processes are also my living processes and I can't separate one from the other.

Yes, I am technically procrastinating by blogging on this space, but it is not procrastination. I write everyday, but today's post is more focused because I found meaning from the chaos through sharing the pineapple story with the parents of kielbasa boy, and have chosen to doodle, creatively, in what I have to say. I now have a belt wrapped around my head to  contain my thoughts and I'm composing with my wonderful friends in my mind.

The writing process? Is it good? That doesn't matter. It's the way each of us find a way to work. One of the things I have learned from 19 years in this education-gig is that there is never a single process for writers; instead, there are multiple writing processes and the job for us all is to help mentor others to find what works best for them.

How sad are the institutions that limit learners to a single, positivist routine for composing?

Allow for eccentricity. Celebrate the random mind. Dance with the foolishness that is life. Why? Because this actually helps me finish those book chapters and recommendations.

This is my writing process. What's yours?

I am challenging the following individuals:
  • All bloggers in the National Writing Project network (including Troy Hicks - because I'm curious what he'd write),
  • All bloggers in the Reading and Language Arts Center at Syracuse University,
  • & All bloggers in the Connecticut Writing Project network.

1) What are you working on?

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

3) Why do you write what you do?

4) How does your writing process work?

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