Let's Talk: Process is for spreadable cheese by Susan Tepper

Let’s Talk: Process is for spreadable cheese by Susan Tepper

If one more writer talks about “their process,” I’m going to split a gut. Can one split a gut? I guess any part of the body can be split. I had a root canal this week, so blood and splitting (and spitting) are on my mind.

It’s just this: it gets so sickening and redundant to hear writers going on about how they write a story, how they write a poem. They remind me of acupuncturists.

When I had a back injury that didn’t heal after almost two years, after trying every form of therapy, I went to an acupuncturist. Her treatment room was filled with charts showing pin-points of points on the body, plus other items that seemed to contain an abundance of silken tassels. I never did figure out what the tassels had to do with acupuncture. But I figured out it was a stage set, of sorts. If she had led me into a sterile room, without the piped-in New Age music, without the candles and the mystical dodads lying about, perhaps I would feel short-changed. Perhaps I would feel my acupuncture was less about chakras, and more about sticking a needle into a place that sends a signal to the brain to stop pain. It’s that simple.

It helped me hugely, the acupuncture. But I didn’t need to have all the extra ornaments. She could have put me down on the grass and stuck in the needles and I would have had the same result.

This is what writers do about their process. They get caught up in silken tassels, the charts with the pin-points, lighting candles, saying a prayer… it just goes on and on.

And on and on.

When the simple truth of writing is telling the simple truth of the moment.

"Nothing to Writing" image by Laura Roberts, quote by Ernest Hemingway

“Nothing To Writing” image by Laura Roberts, quote attributed to Ernest Hemingway

Now, I’ll admit there is one ornament a writer clearly needs in their arsenal: an imagination. Without that, well, good luck to you. There are people writing like crazy who have limited imagination. You can see it easily enough when you read their material. They like to call out on their “process,” which is a kind of smoke screen for “nothing much is happening in my northern hemisphere.”

Well, I’m truly sorry about that.

Because whenever I hear someone say I want to be a writer, it makes me nearly retch. I think to myself, “Who the fuck wants to be a writer?!”

If we’re going to talk want, well I want to go to medical school. I want to make money. I want to be appreciated. I want to save lives. Those are things I want.

Then there is writing. Art. You don’t get to decide, it does. It chooses. You don’t choose.

When I hear any art form (yes, creative writing is actually an art form) being discussed as if it were, for instance, a course in accounting, well it becomes a bit much.

Those people who sit down every day without making it into performance art, but simply plop their butt in the chair and start to type the first thing that streams through their unconscious mind? Those are the writers. They have a story to tell. They will take you on a journey.

The rest? The rest should feel blessed. They should go to med school or do something that will allow them to pay the bills, take vacations, buy a house, have a life.

Art – writing, acting, music, painting, sculpture and the like – are similar to tiny implanted chips. Some of us get born with them, and some do not. I still haven’t figured out if they’re a curse or a blessing. It is what it is. And if by some miracle you make some money off your art, then you have been doubly blessed. As the Chinese say, you have received Double Happiness.

Don’t talk about your process. Just live it, and let the results speak for themselves.

susan (2)Susan Tepper is the author of four published books of fiction and a chapbook of poetry. Her current title, The Merrill Diaries, (Pure Slush Books, 2013) is a novel in stories. Tepper has been nominated 9 times for the Pushcart, and one time for a Pulitzer Prize in fiction. She is also a named-finalist in story/South Million Writers Award for 2014. FIZZ, her reading series at KGB Bar in NYC, has been sporadically ongoing for six or seven years now. Tepper writes the author/books Interview series UNCOV/rd at Flash Fiction Chronicles. You can find her online at susantepper.com.