On Trees and Writing

27

July 9, 2014 by Katia

This post is part of a blog tour on the topic of your favourite bloggers’ writing process. I was invited to share mine by Yvonne Spence, accomplished writer and blogger at Inquiring Parent, whose wisdom and kindness transcend continents and computer screens and always find their way straight to my heart.

***

I start writing this post sitting in my backyard on Canada Day. I soak up the silence. I’m surrounded by shade, peace and the hustle bustle of leaves and I’m in the midst of a mini existential crisis of sorts. There’s a blank space under the job category in my identity checklist and it sometimes makes me feel anchorless. I don’t know what to be when I grow up anymore. Writing and trees are swirling in my mind as some old and new certainties emerge. I revisit the old ones first. I hold on to them to keep myself grounded whenever I get emotionally scattered. I know that I want to be able to see my kids on my own terms and I know that I can always, no matter what, keep writing.

I take in the amazing clutter of trees in the adjoining backyards and I’m as close as I can get to feeling the serenity that looking at trees, spread as far as the eye can see is supposed to bring. I’m catapulted to the two years I’d spent working full time while being a new mom. I remember being surrounded by the same scenery and KNOWING that this is peace yet not being able to feel it. I belonged, in my mind, to my job and remember always, always feeling the pull of work, the grasp that it had on me, the sense that the backyard’s temporary, a fragile figment of an imagined parallel universe and less of a reality than the job.  I recall the inner dialogue, the constant autosuggestion “no, THIS is what’s real, THIS is what’s real, THIS is what’s real and everlasting”. I am reliving that when I hear my inner voice: you belong to this. And it’s extremely surprising and reassuring, because it feels like this is coming from someone else, because I would never have phrased it that way. I’d put it more simply: this belongs to you. I’m reminded of something 38 Year Old said when we moved into our house, six years ago. We both marveled at the enormous big tree in the backyard. I expressed my sense of trepidation about owning one, because that fact screamed “adult”, for one thing. My husband corrected me, it’s been here for so long, it’s not our tree, we’re its people. For a while, at least.

I look for certainties in life. I crave stability. Maybe it’s my immigrant blood. I find great satisfaction in news items about  archaeological findings, I think it comforts me to think of the past as present. Present as in both still here and still now. I belong to the backyard and trees, my family and writing and that is everlasting.

trees

***

What am I working on?

In one of my recent posts, I’ve mentioned always wanting to write a book. Since White Teeth and On Beauty were already taken, I gave up on the idea of writing a fictional novel, or anything at all for that matter, since fiction was the only form of writing I was capable of entertaining, before starting the blog. I’ve also discussed, ad nauseam – some might argue, my hang-ups and feelings of inadequacy over writing in a language that wasn’t my native one.

I’m working on overcoming my hang-ups by pitching posts and practicing getting rejected, ignored and embraced so that I could get more comfortable with the idea of writing not just an essay in English but a whole book (just think of how many words I could potentially misspell there…). I’ve come up with some very initial outlines and am trying to organize them into a coherent skeletal structure. I will say that I’m aiming for a humour/mommy-self-compassion type book.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I’m not sure it differs at all. Everyone wants to feel original and one of a kind. It obviously feels very personal to me when I write my posts and then reread (and reread and reread) them, but reading some of my favourite bloggers’ posts is often (beware clichés ahead) a humbling experience that puts things in perspective for me. It becomes very clear that kindred spirits who see, feel, experience and even communicate reality on to others in ways similar to me are everywhere.

If there is a difference, then I believe it might manifest itself at the inception point. I think that it’s probably a common thing, but my posts are usually born from a strong emotion: heart-squeeze, empathy, pain, shame, anger, overpowering love. They are evoked by events that I witness and ones that naturally involve my family. Someone else observing the same scene will probably not find it inspiring, or even define it as much of an event, having missed the minuscule muscle twitch on my five-year-old’s face and the story behind it or the fleeting lip quiver on my almost two-year-old’s and the complex emotional web that underlies it, but to me they’re monumental events and ones that often produce posts.

Why do I write/create what I do?

I don’t think I’d be able to summarize it better than I did in the two posts linked below, discussing writing, immigration and child-birth as part of the same fabric.

Closest to me

It’s Complicated: Raising My Sons as an Outsider

How does my writing/creating process work?

My blog has several categories but the ones I view as the meta ones are: Sometimes I’m Funny and Sometimes I’m Deep. I started the blog planing to only be funny. When I wrote my first not funny post I was almost apologetic. I even put the word “sentimental” in the title as somewhat of a warning sign. Now I realize that while people love being entertained by funny posts, they also appreciate (perhaps even more so) feeling understood and accepted, as they sometimes do reading the more serious stuff.

When I started writing, I would document the absurdities of life with a baby, toddler and husband. Now my focus has shifted and when I’m being funny, I am driven by recognizing a trend I’ve identified in my family life, which I think has a broad appeal.

It’s different when I’m deep. As I’ve mentioned, it starts with a scene I observe, which grabs my heart and that I feel is just too powerful or beautiful or painful to not share with others. Like my son mumbling his forced “pliz” on the playground, or my younger son contorting his body into strange shapes in an attempt to please his older brother, the crying little girl with the strawberry umbrella or my five-year-old in his snow suit, distraught, trying to stop a fight between my husband and me.

I don’t know WHAT I want to say when I set out to start a post like that. I just try to recreate the scene as accurately as I can. I revive it within me and explore the micro: every little detail in the movement of bodies, facial expressions, voices and the emotional response it evoked in me. I then try to understand why it felt the way it did to me and through that I attempt to identify the broader appeal and potential message, if there is one.

***

I was requested to tag three favourite writers. I chose three kindred spirits I’ve met here on WordPress. They were all Freshly Pressed because it’s not just me who thinks they’re amazing. All three are sometimes funny, sometimes deep. Here are the links to some of my favourite blog posts by them. They will all be sharing thoughts about their own writing process next week, so make sure to follow them.

Emily at The Waiting: Meet Ed Pate, Salesman

Karen at Mended Musings: The Big Answers

Dawn at WTF (Writing, Thinking, Feeling): Can Someone Tell My Daughter Who God is Please

27 thoughts on “On Trees and Writing

  1. I love this, Katia. “You belong to this.” That is so profound to me and something I’m going to be replaying in my mind. Thank you for including me. I love Emily and can’t wait to read Dawn!

    • Katia says:

      Thank you so much, Karen. I can’t wait to read all three of you. As for that sentence, I don’t even feel like I could take credit. I honestly heard it in my head rather than conjuring it up🙂

    • Dawn says:

      It’s funny that the trees are a center piece of this post. Your words stretch like the limbs of a gnarly oak tree, in the way you describe such beautiful chaos, that is our brain. I say “our” because it feels like we are one person when I read your writings. Not ass kissing, not exaggerating when I say, I had to pause several times when reading this because my brain couldn’t keep up with the depth of it. Awesome.

      And thank you, sincerely, for choosing my blog to keep this fantastic blog tour going. Will be home from vacation in a few days and once life resumes, writing my post will be priority. Much love Momma🙂

      • Katia says:

        I love that tree/brain analogy, it’s brilliant! I wasn’t even thinking of that. I’m so excited to be reading your post next week and so grateful for this comment! xoxo

  2. lrconsiderer says:

    Beaaauuuuuuuuutiful. I love how you did this, and the moments you shared, and that immense, underlying, networked background to what *might* seem like a very small moment, but isn’t.

    Interesting, because I get the same *feel* from your Instagram feed a lot of the time🙂

    • Katia says:

      You have no idea how deeply and profoundly satisfied your comment leaves me, because I took a photography course years ago and have always been drawn to it. My teacher, who was very supportive, asked me once what I thought was special about my photos, or how would I define them, and after thinking about it I said that they tell a story. So good to know that someone else (and you) feels the same way🙂

      • lrconsiderer says:

        They have that same, magical, ethereal quality that your writing has, when there’s nothing at all left – no screen, no pixels, just the thoughts you left behind, floating, as if suspended by the internet itself, reaching out tendrils of pondering to see whether there is an alike mind to make contact with. They say a picture speaks a thousand words – some of yours speak millions. I remember one, very powerful image – I can’t remember what it *actually* was, but it was a child’s shadow against a wall, holding something…and that was *incredible*

      • Katia says:

        Reading this comment literally took my breath away. Thank you so much for writing so beautifully – even when it’s “just” a comment and thank you for saying and thinking this, my dear friend. I know which photograph you’re referring to, it’s the one of Daniel spinning a CD in his hand🙂

      • lrconsiderer says:

        YES! That one. Yes…I love it…I feel as though I could get lost in it…

  3. Natalie DeYoung says:

    That introduction was gorgeous and tugged at my heart. I felt the conflict of identity, because I feel it too. If I don’t work, who am I?

  4. I love this post for many reasons. As someone who has only just started blogging, I’m still trying to find my voice, my reasons for blogging and my inspiration. It’s fascinating and reassuring to read about some of yours. I’ve just read the pages you linked to on the other blogs too. All great writers – thank you!🙂

    • Katia says:

      Thank you so much, this means a lot. I don’t think I’ve fully figured out why I’m doing this (and there are some constant “whys” alongside shifting and changing ones), but I’m so happy it helped you feel reassured. Good luck with your own writing and feel free to stay connected. I’ll gladly answer any questions you may have about blogging.

  5. sara says:

    Sometimes funny, sometimes deep. Yep, me too xo

  6. Lisa @ The Golden Spoons says:

    I’m not really interested in writing a book, but I would love to be a try freelancer so I have been submitting stuff like crazy – and getting rejected frequently. It is hard, but I’m trying to have faith that, someday, I will break through and be famous!! Well, I would actually settle for just getting paid.

  7. Kristi Campbell - findingninee says:

    I love that you admit to not ever knowing what you’re going to write about when you start writing – or how your post will turn out. I do the same thing (much less awesomely than you because you’re amazing). I really love, too, how you write about the moments. I find that the ones I think of, over and over again, are the ones that make the best posts, and so often, the moments last only minutes. It’s all of the feelings and thoughts and ripples that make for greatness – you rock for recognizing that. I am not sure I always remember that – so thank you.

  8. The Waiting says:

    “Just think of how many words I could potentially misspell there…” Oh, honey, I have had the same thought about a potential book authored by yours truly. I may break the computer or at least make Spellcheck throw its hands up in complete exasperation.

    Thank you for including me in your roundup. I’m so excited to actually sit down and answer these questions. I may not be blogging per se a lot now, but I am writing. It’s in our blood! xox

  9. […] piece for this tour was stunning. Indulge in the 10 minutes it will take to read her piece, On Trees and Writing. It will have a lasting, positive affect on your […]

  10. praw27 says:

    Absolutely love the line: “…it’s not our tree, we’re its people.” Great post, I often write and wonder why, yet I take little time to deeply explore it. I usually come up with, “because I want to” or “because I can” (this means only that I can put words on paper, not that I am a “author.”) Oh, and I love your backyard!

    • Katia says:

      Thank you so much for this wonderful comment. I don’t see myself as an author either and I probably wouldn’t have pondered on any of this had I not been presented with the opportunity through this blog tour.

      I loved the last comment about my backyard. Reading your comment this morning made my day!

  11. I did this prompt, too, and can’t get enough reading other writers’ responses. Why is that? Because they are inspirational & eye-opening, as is yours. So thank you for sharing! I honestly would not have assumed that English wasn’t native to you, so kudos!

    • Katia says:

      Oh my goodness, thank you so much, Allison! It means a lot – your entire comment that is as well as the part about language. I’d love to read yours, share the link?

  12. […] mix of humor and seriousness in many of her stories. Katia’s post about her writing process is On Trees and Writing but please read The Unbearable Lightness of Being Away where she shares her feelings about the […]

  13. English isn’t your first language??? DAMN. Could have fooled me!

    I so relate to the trees. My house is on a river with two gigantic tulip poplars down by the water. When I get REALLY anxious, I lie beneath them and remember how long it took them to grow and how many millenia it took to carve the river. Then I walk back up “my” hill and make macaroni and cheese and wipe boogers out of little noses. It’s all good!

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