I'm a creative-process junkie, fascinated by how people discover and access their creative depths and give voice to their authentic expressions. This could be in any art, dance, music, etc. but for me writing is the thing, the word that catches my eye, my breath, makes me stop and turn to see what someone is saying about writing.
I focus on the writing process as an antidote to focusing on product. My natural tendency is to want everything I write to work, turn out to be wonderful, brilliant; to declare itself finished. I think the hardest part of being a writer, and the only part of writing that can actually be taught, is to be your own editor, critic and shoulder-patter. This is hard. Very hard, for very many reasons, not least that we live in a time of workshop-mania, which makes writers look outside themselves for a stamp of approval. We know a piece is good when 1) enough people say it is good, or 2) when the right person says it is good, or 3) when it is published.
There's plenty of evidence that these are fallacies. Many writers who are considered great today lived and wrote and died without a lot of people, and certainly not "the right person" telling them they would become important writers. Thoreau for one. Poe. Kafka. Emily Dickinson. As for number three, I asked the poet Donald Hall once how he knew when a poem was finished. He pointed to a page in his newly published book from which he had just given a reading and said, "I changed one of these as I read it." Paul Verlan said that handing his poems over for publication was his way of abandoning them. They were never finished. I work with the AWA method because it takes writing to a different space, where none of those three stamps of approval are valid.
I love the AWA approach of using prompts to 'just write'. Write and surprise yourself. "Write for the necessity of joy, and the joy of necessity," my great-grandmother told me. She saw my misadventure in focusing on product. "Write one true sentence," Hemingway said. "Write the truest sentence you know." But he despaired, and killed himself, so is that setting the bar too high? Write a lot of sentences, bad and good, I say. Natalie Goldberg called it "garbage writing". Julia Cameron called it "morning pages." It's the writing process that brings us closer to that true thing we were trying to say.
We also need to learn to evaluate our own writing. To read and revise and re-read and rewrite. David Foster Wallace once admonished his students, "You're not writing to express yourself, you're writing to communicate!" Well, we are doing both. Which is why I love the AWA approach to giving feedback based on what a reader hears expressed in your writing.
I work with the AWA approach to writing and teaching. I strive to facilitate each writer's ability to access one's own voice to produce authentic writing. And when a writer is ready to revise a piece towards complete fruition, I facilitate each writer's ability to hone their craft.
And when I'm not teaching, I'm doing those two things for myself. Writing and rewriting. It never changes. Every blank page is a great unknown. Every next sentence waits to be written. We write. It's all we do. Why? It brings some kind of joy. It's a way of experiencing being alive.