Sunday, October 27, 2019

My (Small Press) Writing Day, by Laurel Miram

Subject to Change

I enjoy a fairly flexible non-writing work schedule, so the flow of my days is changeable, which is fitting. I am not an organized or systematic person, with writing or anything else. I write when I write, I suppose, and how and why and where.
I might say my designated workspace is a Microsoft Surface laptop and wherever I sit. Right now, it’s the carpet. I don’t have an office or a desk. I hope to tuck one into the alcove at the end of my hall, but that is future fodder.
A surprising amount of composition happens in my car. I don’t make phone calls while I drive. I don’t listen to the radio. I listen to the wheels—four on the car, more in my head—to the contacts they make, how they run, where they hum. Sometimes I pray. Sometimes I rehearse phrases I’ve just realized so they won’t slip away. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t listen to the radio anymore.
The flesh and soul of my work emerge and fuse during lengthy drafting sessions. This is my favorite part of the writing process. I tap into lightning; the current sparks and ebbs where it will, and I am its witness. A scribe. I don’t eat. I don’t break. I sprout color. I combust. I love finishing first drafts this way. Still, I don’t mind harnessing fire with kite and key when necessary. I don’t know if either method produces better results than the other, but those inspired, gloriously intensive marathons lift the act of writing to another realm for me. I don’t come down from them until I reread what I’ve written, usually several days or weeks later. This is when the scars and misfires declare themselves. This is where the work of writing begins.
Revision and I don’t always graft. We row and slam doors and I walk away for air and space and sometimes see other people, but when we find each other on the same page, it is beautiful. As with most partnerships, we don’t really know what we’re doing until we’ve done it. It takes time, reversal, reflex, sacrifice. And lots of paper. When I believe a piece is ready, I print and read it. I catch the odd typo this way, but mostly I am listening for the music of the work. Playing by ear. I tune. I print again. I fine-tune. Print again. So on, until I read the piece and know that somebody might be able to improve it, but that someone isn’t me.
All of this happens at any point in any day, but there are patterns. Drafting is a morning or weekend affair. Editing or adding to an unfinished draft: afternoons and evenings. Weeknights are devoted to reading for The Lascaux Review and submitting my own work. And yes, wasting more time than I’d like to admit checking Duotrope to see where my current submissions stand. Or may stand. Or fall. It’s all prognostication so I don’t know why I bother. I guess it’s human to wonder.
I read journals at night, too, in addition to momentary batches of stories or poems I run across during the day. Some of this is research, some of it is in support of writers I’ve met via Twitter, to champion their work. One thing I’ve not done in a long time, at any hour, is read a book. I have several in mind—contemporary and classic—but I’m waiting. I’m looking for unimpeded, unrushed time. For distance from scouring for craft. I want the feast delights of reading, its thunder and whispers. It’s not about what I read, but how. And not “if,” just “when.”
I often fall asleep beside my laptop at night, or find that I can’t focus on what words mean anymore, and I close everything down. Midnight is the standard hour, but like everything else, this is subject to change.

Laurel Miram is an American short fiction writer, essayist, and poet. Her work appears in Nixes Mate Review and is forthcoming in OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters and the Eastern Iowa Review. She is the short fiction winner of So to Speak Journal’s 2019 contest issue.

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