paper: pretty paper. true stories. {and scrapbooking classes with cupcakes.}: On The Writing Process

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On The Writing Process

notes on my scrapbook writing process @

For an expat, I find I mix with surprisingly few other expats here in London, but from time to time stumble upon someone with a similar experience of growing up stateside yet living here as an adult and how some things in that combination just become a little humorous or unexpected or occasionally downright frustrating. The writer behind Angloyankophile is one of these types perfect for these conversations, but we’ve only ever conversed on Twitter and, to our knowledge, have never been in the same place at the same time. I was very honoured when she asked me to participate in the ‘Writing Process Blog Tour’ by taking a week to answer some questions about how and why I write.

I started immediately.

It took me two weeks.

I think this says all you need to know about my writing process, but should you wish to know more, I can humour you!

notes on my scrapbook writing process @

What writing are you working on?
I’m getting back to my true inner voice. She disappeared a bit before Wonder Boy arrived and she is only starting to reappear. I’m okay with that: there are so many jokes about ‘baby brain’ for a reason, and it is something I have found very challenging. My mind is muddled, it’s difficult to focus, and broken sleep even leads me to get stuck in the middle of a sentence because I can’t remember the word I wanted to use. On the whole, none of this bothers me too much, because I assume it will gradually fall away. Some friends have told me it all falls away; others say they have never felt as sharp as before. The only worry I have had is that I really don’t want to forget the stories from those early weeks, and as a result I’m making some compromises in writing things more simply and succinctly than might have a year ago. (Though, looking at this paragraph, I can clearly still ramble.) My hope is that the scrapbook format means I can go back and add in more detail as I find my voice again, and I’ll be able to document everything I want in a way that sounds right to my ear at some point.

notes on my scrapbook writing process @

How does your work differ from others of its genre?
There are as many writing styles as there are scrapbookers, surely? I remember when we originally pitched ourselves as a team at Scrapbook Inspirations magazine (obligatory sigh), we each had a subtitle of ‘the one with…’ and I was ‘the one with all the words’. I love pages that have longer stories, though I certainly don’t have a long story on every layout. I love that I jump around and tell stories in bits and pieces, in this strangely organic way of building my life story as I reflect and learn from my experiences. Perhaps the part of my process that differs from many is how often I refer to my existing pages. I don’t make pages to file away and rarely look at them again. I make a page and put it in its home and when I decide to scrapbook something, I go to the album to find the place where that page will go. I read the journaling on the pages immediately before and after the spot where the new page will live. It directly informs how I will write on that page: it’s how the story builds over time, and it also prevents something that plagued me years ago. I would make multiple pages of an event at different times and then when put side by side, the journaling was pretty much the same. Now I know what has and hasn’t been said about that particular event and I can make a choice over what to write next to make that story more full and vivid.

Admittedly, I don’t think there is anything in particular that is exceptionally unique about the way I work from every single other scrapbooker out there! But we all have our own little patterns that feel right, and those are mine.

notes on my scrapbook writing process @

Why do you write what you do?
Because I don’t have the patience to write a novel. (I tried a few times when I was younger. I always failed, even if I bought a really special notebook and pen for drafting.)
Because scrapbooking is really my therapy. (It helps me remove the drama from life and focus on what is truly important.)
Because I am an observer. (The Boy and I can be somewhere together and we will remember the experience so differently. I always remember what people were doing and saying, for some reason.)
Because I am very, very fearful of what it would be like for my memory to slip away. (Honest admission. It has kept me awake at night since I was a very little girl.)

notes on my writing process @

How does your writing process work?
I have notebooks all over the place. I write in a different voice in longhand than typing (something I loved reading studies about when I was teaching and I tended to be pretty vocal about long-term plans that took the vast majority of writing to the keyboard) and I don’t do well with keeping one ongoing book (which is probably part of why I can’t write a novel). The Boy is a dedicated one-notebook-at-a-time person, so he carries his from room to room and place to place all the time. I keep one in every room. Then sometimes I switch them around to help my train of thought. I cut and paste (literally, rather than with keyboard shortcuts) and scribble in arrows and replace words. Most of that process doesn’t flow to typing for me, so the stuff I write by hand feels more genuine and composed to me. What I am realising as I write this explanation is that I’m pretty haphazard and all over the place. And also, I love fine point pens.

And now… I’m meant to nominate two other bloggers to find out about their writing process. It doesn’t have to be a scrapbooker, but there are two scrappers who came to mind, so I’m going with them: Jill Sprott and Julie Kirk and hoping they will answer these questions on their blogs. But if anyone out there is reading and would like to take on these questions for fodder, please don’t be shy! I’d love to read about your writing process, be it for scrapbook pages, blogging, or some other worldy words on which you’re working!

10 September 2014

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14 Comments for On The Writing Process

  1. Maureen Says:

    Oh! I’ve tried writing novels when I was younger too! I always started in a new fun notebook and then never finished. I still have all the books… it is fun to read the first few pages of my random teenage ideas.

  2. Crystal Toler Says:

    What a great post. I love reading about other peoples thought processes. Writing in journals and on layouts is something I am working on improving.

  3. KateT Says:

    I soon realised, after the birth of my first child, that I needed to get a notebook and write down every detail of the birth – for the sake of my sanity! Events would run through my mind when I tried to sleep and, like you, I felt it was vital that I forgot nothing. I wrote it all down and then gave myself permission to forget it. Looking through the notebook when I was tidying the other day, there were things I had totally forgotten, but when my daughter is older and wants to ask questions about her birth, hopefully, all of the answers will be waiting there for her.

  4. Julie Kirk Says:

    Well now, that’s gone and put me in a bit of a spin! I was reading along nodding [wanting to + not managing to write longer form …. yet / many notebooks, everywhere, just in case / fine point pens …] and then there’s my name!

    I’m hugely pleased you thought to pass the baton on to me [even more pleased that it doesn’t involve an actual baton. Which I’d drop.] … but the thing is … I’ve already taken part in what I think is the same blog hop, earlier this summer.

    My post is here:

    I also took a long time to write mine … and I have no beautiful-baby-excuse!


  5. Monica Says:

    To begin, I sigh too…miss the magazine dearly.
    About the writing. I used to write long letters to pen friends I had and I loved and needed it, but the suddenly I lost my voice. I don’t know why and I don’t miss it very much, but still it’s sad, especially since I can’t seem to get all those things down in my scrapbooking that I would want to. Mayby some day I will find it again, I hope so.

  6. linda Says:

    Could totally relate to your mention of being in a fog. My boy is 18 months and I still don’t feel like my old self. Perhaps it’s impossible to be that girl again, now that so much has changed. And it takes time to find one’s new self, I suppose!

  7. Jane Says:

    Enjoyed this! Wondering if you’ve read Before I Go to Sleep? But then again, if losing your memory haunts you, maybe it’s one you should avoid!

  8. vicki Says:

    Shimelle- quick question about you filing your layouts. How often do you have to do a big shift in an album because it gets to full? And does that mean all the following albums have to shift too?

    Yes these are the questions that keep me up at night!

  9. maria Says:

    I have had a life-long love affair with pens and notebooks, but fail miserably in keeping them up. There’s just something about a new notebook so full of the promise of well-versed adventures! I’ve promised myself to work on journaling that really sounds like me. You do it so well and it’s always interesting. Thanks for talking about how you “get it all down.” Maria

  10. Gab Says:

    Really great post – and don’t worry, the “baby brain” will go away!

  11. Anna Bradshaw Says:

    What a fun idea to ponder! I find that I’m running a constant stream of written word dialogue in my mind… I think out a perfectly formed paragraph or two and think, oh! I should write that down!
    Alas, when it comes to getting it on paper, my well thought descriptions tend to go “write” out the window and I’m often surprised by what does go down on paper.
    Journalling in my scrapbooks tend towards mushy, thoughtful reflections- but as my journaling box fills up, my thoughts get cut short and sometimes end abruptly. I definitely write with a reader in mind, especially when typing. When reviewing my handwritten thoughts, its obvious when I get warmed up; my neat and tidy letters dissolve into scribbled run togethers that only I can decipher.
    I love those moments when I can type uninterrupted. With two small girls needing attending too, I can sympathize with that finding your voice dilemma mentioned above. But the quiet, pre dawn hours before leaving for work Saturday mornings are all mine usually, so that’s when I send out long personal emails and add more thoughtful and detailed content to my blog.
    Oh, and I’m a rambler! My mom taught me the great art of “fluffing” my paragraphs with more words than neccessary and I’ve never lost the habit :-)

  12. Maureen Says:

    Shimelle – I truly enjoy your writing; it had had a major impact on my journal long in my scrapbooks. Your mention of stumbling upon someone with similar experiences mad me literally gasp. I went to college with Angloyankophile!

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