Thursday, January 18, 2018

Teri Vlassopoulos : Writing Cycles

My typical days contain very little actual writing, which is admittedly embarrassing for someone who earnestly tells strangers they are a writer. But I’ve long excused myself from having to write on a daily basis. I’ve tried slotting it in on weekdays in different configurations (early morning/on lunch breaks like Frank O’Hara/late at night) and they left me feeling cranky, resentful of whatever pulled me away from writing, or just guilty for not following through. Knowing that writing isn’t something I’m obligated to do during the working week weirdly makes me feel like less of a failure.

So I think of writing as something that happens in cycles, not over the course of a day. These cycles can last weeks or months, ups and downs, ideas developing or hiding away. And while my typical day is filled with more numbers than words (I work in finance) and more Paw Patrol than literature (I have a toddler), I can’t say that the days are completely devoid of writing – there are threads of it. There’s thinking through ideas while driving to and from work. I like listening to interviews with writers on podcasts, particularly interviews with poets. (For the record, I can’t write poetry.) I read, of course, bits of books and stories and poems and Tweets and longform essays and viral clickbait posts, all of which are part of a writing cycle. I also jot down notes on my phone or post-its, rarely in the notebook I insist on carrying around with me.

I email myself writing in progress and read it on my phone after putting my daughter to bed. As I drift off to sleep, I give my subconscious instructions on what to work on. “Absorb this,” I’ll tell my brain. “Fix this part. You have one week.” When I eventually have a writing session I’ll see what it gives me. Even if it’s disappointing, it’s still more than if we hadn’t had one of our little chats. Which is good since I can’t exactly go ahead and fire my brain.

When I do write, when it’s an actual writing day, it looks like this: it’s a Saturday or Sunday morning. If I’m feeling civilized, I’ll go to the café up the street for coffee and a scone. If I don’t want to leave the house, I’ll just sit in bed. These days, if I can get the house to myself, I prefer staying there since I won’t get distracted by baked goods or lose precious minutes on the walk over (every minute counts when I have a writing session!). Because there’s been so much build up – all the nighttime talks with my brain and processing during commutes — I work steadily for about two or three hours. Then I email the writing to myself, and the cycle repeats.  

Teri Vlassopoulos lives and writes in Toronto. She has published two books with Invisible Publishing: a short story collection, Bats or Swallows, which was shortlisted both for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and the ReLit Award, and a novel, Escape Plans. Her writing has appeared in Little Fiction/Big Truths, Catapult, The Rumpus and The Millions. She can be found on Twitter at @terki or at

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