Mimi Herman joins me today with a new definition of a writer: she’s a plantser!
1. When did you start writing?
I started writing poetry in fourth grade. I was a painfully shy kid, and my fourth grade language arts teacher, Miss Stevens, was the first person who really saw me. She taught me to write poetry. I suppose if she’d been my math teacher, I’d have been a mathematician.
2. Are you a pantser or a planner?
Could I be a plantser? I like to plant things and watch them grow, though they always grow more than I expect. I need to remember to give them more room. I do some planning, but mostly winging, unless I’m working on a novel, in which case I stop midway, do extensive planning and then return to winging.
3. Can you give us an idea of your writing process?
Since I’m a consultant and independent contractor, I have a lot of control over my schedule. So when I’m planning my year, which pretty much corresponds with the academic year, I give myself a writing week each month to write. I also plan for several longer chunks of time—three to five weeks to work on bigger projects, starting something new or finishing it. During those weeks, I turn off my phone, refuse to check email until my writing’s done, and do everything I can to make people think I’ve disappeared, short of parking my car around the block. The way I actually do the work depends on the project. If I’m working on poetry, I write ten poems a day; if fiction, I generally write ten pages a day. I write most things by hand and revise them as I type them into the computer, then relentlessly revise afterward, honing and cutting until I’ve come as close as I can to truth. Truth, by the way, doesn’t always have to be serious in my work.
4. Which authors have influenced your work?
Alice Munro, big time. Elizabeth Bishop. Kay Ryan. Kim Addonizio. Robert Frost. Carl Sandburg. Anton Chekhov. William Gibson. Neal Stephenson. Heather McHugh. Tom Lux. Milan Kundera. Annie Dillard. Annie Lamott.
5. What are you plans/future projects/new releases that we should be aware of?
I’m about halfway through a new novel, The Kudzu Queen, about a man who travels the South to promote that wonderful new plant, kudzu—and the fifteen-year-old girl who brings him down. I’ve recently released my first book of poetry, Logophilia, which I love, and I’m working on my next poetry collection—at a rate of ten poems a day—which I plan to publish in the coming year.
6. Any tips for new writers?
Keep your internal editor out of your first drafts. Write big rambling first drafts and then pare them down through revision, until you’ve found your real voice. Experiment. Play.
7. Any tips for old writers?
If you’re not enjoying the writing, find a way back into it that gives you pleasure. If you are enjoying the writing, bravo!