My Writing Process
Written by
Tory McCagg
June 2014
Written by
Tory McCagg
June 2014


I spent this morning gamely trying to avoid writing and succeeded to such an extent that I had been in my office for over three hours and not an idea of worth written. And then I realized Today is Post Day!



Rurow. What to write about? And how to write over the cacophony of Big Red's crows and the hens cackling their announcements: AN EGG! I HAVE HAD AN EGG!



And the resulting call and response between them and Big Red. All the kerfuffle has my shoulders up around my ears, tensed for something. I don't know what.

Fortunately (?) my imagination has not in any way taken a leave of absence, and so I can come up with multitudinous reasons, beyond chickens, for the anxiety. But why waste your time and mine with worries?

My desk has been reorganized since my last post and, as suspected, that was not the trouble. I'm still what might be called blocked. I know exactly what I want to say in this as-yet unwritten book but don't seem to be getting anything down on the page. Avoidance and distraction?

In fact, I've been busy with other things. Example: I had the pleasure of going to Hollis High School yesterday and chatting with a roomful of Freshmen; I hope they gained something from my rather Ad Hoc presentation. Too, I was given a tour of the school's hall ways by a graduating Senior and must say, if she is an example of our future generation, I can cross that off my worry list. From dreams to goals, she has her life all lined up and the energy to implement them. Perhaps I can live my youth again vicariously? She has my same interests: History and Philosophy. She loves to read . . ..

Full disclosure: That I was impressed with her has nothing to do with the fact that she loved Bittersweet Manor. That she "got" what I was trying to say about privilege and entitlement and family. How cool is that? I still feeling honored and touched that she was so enthusiastic about it.

At which point, I think, "oh, maybe she was just being nice." Certainly, she's not going to send me the link to her blog on philosophy and such. Which makes me sad. I'd have like to read it. (Are you out there Mollie? Please send the link!)

IMG_0606At which point, I stop that rumination and return to this post. I pause to recognize the proclamation that ANOTHER EGG IS BEING LAID. And think about the other things I have to think about, rather than write.

The radio show (to be taped this Friday) for instance. I will be talking about Bittersweet Manor with Lesley Nase of the radio show "Books, Yarns and Tales" (WBTN, 1370 AM, Bennington, VT). The unknowns being one, will my cell phone connection work? Two, will I suddenly lose my train-of-thought, or go off on such a leap and a tangent that I can't find my way back? Three, what if I have no clue how to respond to some random question that she asks?

Fortunately, my new mantra is "What will be, will be". Isn't that zen? Deep breathe. What will be, will be . . ..

Except my next book, which will not be if I don't write it.

This is what I'm most concerned about these days. My next book. Oh, it's all very well to wonder about how the sales are going for Bittersweet Manor. To think that, really, I should be more on top of the on-line promotion of it.

Really, really, I should be more on top of that.


Ahhhh. "What will be, will be."



And I open the files on my desk. And those on my computer desktop. And I take a sheet of paper. I tell myself I have to go deeper than I am going. I have to commit to Darwin's View.

And then SUDDENLY . . . I find it is half an hour later. Somehow or other, I ended up on the phone or on-line and ANOTHER EGG HAS BEEN LAID. This one by me.

These posts represent that skeetering quality I have taken on of late. (Um . . .  for months.) It began in earnest when I started this new website. I knew I would have to draw a thick line between what I write about on-line, and what I write about for my book. If I write about on-line what I write about for the book, then the book won't be as strong. My ideas would be diluted and overworked by the time I got them into a book. Too, writing a book is a different kind of writing. Writing for a blog is more free. Relatively spontaneous.

One of the young men in the class yesterday asked me if it's different writing non-fiction or fiction. Or was it, do I prefer writing one or the other way? In any case, this is a continuing question for me: the twining of fact and fiction. I'm reading a new friend's book right now, Hysterical: Anna Freud's Story by Rebecca Coffey. It is a novel but it gets me thinking of Freud and his life and his writings. And the connection between his life and his theories between which--in the book--there is a very thin line.

Or is Ms. Coffey extrapolating Anna's life from his theories and it's not, in fact, the Freud family's lives but what Ms. Coffey made up?

In her introduction, Ms. Coffey states she did a lot of research. I have no doubt she did. In which case, it's freaky to think that how the Freuds are represented in this novel, perhaps, was how they were because then no small wonder his theories were what they were.

And thus I will return us to the characters in Bittersweet Manor. Fact or fiction. Is Livy one of my aunts? Some would say absolutely. But how so? Were she still alive and my aunt read my book, she might see an outline of the facts of her life, but did I somehow guess her thoughts and dreams? Her true feelings? Her view of her life? AND, apparently, one of the scenes I thought I made up, in fact (sic) happened to an entirely different aunt.

Fact or fiction?

Yesterday, I told the class that one of my favorite authors is Edith Wharton. Needless to say, I don't know anyone she knew. A great-relative of some sort was a very close friend of hers, and he was a mentor of sorts to my father but that's about as close a connect as there is to her. Other than my love of her work. But, apparently, some of her characters existed in life. She took Mrs. Astor (?) and fictionalized her. Today, we read it as fiction. How was it read in her day? Was there a Lily Bart in Ms. Wharton's life? An Undine Spragg?

And now I work on creative non-fiction. A "memoir" . . . however one defines that. Because memory is so plastic, pliable. How many have contemplated one event, yet each has a different experience of it.

Tomorrow morning, I will be back at my desk. I will know that I need to take the spontaneity of my blog (if not the long and convoluted sentences) and work it into the deeper questions I am asking in my book. I need to delve deeper. Sit stiller. Write.

Which is where I began. Trying to find the window into this book.

Or is it a hole?

The finished fence! Well, that part of it.

Outside my window, Carl is digging holes for the fence around the yard. In all, he will dig (at some point, believe it or not, with my help) thirty or forty holes. That's kind of what I'm doing. I dig a hole. And another. Another.  Each in a slightly different spot. Each morning, I seem to start again exactly where I left off. But not. And I keep coming back. Because I know I will figure it out. It's there, what I want to say. It's just a matter of getting that sh**ty rough draft on the page. And then rework it. And then revise again. Add. Subtract. And the oddest part about this block is that I love the process. The challenge. Because I know, somehow, that all those holes are connected. That each is a necessary part of my process. However desperate and demoralizing the digging can be at times. I only hope I'll find and make the time to finish it. The book is, after all, about my war against global climate change. My quixotic venture. Time is short. The weather is getting odder.

I'll conclude with an embrace to the energies of Joy Bicknell and Dennis McCarthy. May you both live forever in the memories and hearts of those who loved you, and in the world that is a better place for you having lived.



June 18th at 1PM: Interview of me by Lesley Nase of the radio show "Books, Yarns and Tales" WBTN, 1370 AM, Bennington, VT. (This will be prerecorded.)

June 25 at 6 PM Symposium Bookstore in E. Greenwich Plaza (near Dave's), RI. (1000 Division Street.) Bring friends and family!

July 5 at 8AM Join Carl and me as we join Lawrence Lessig's NH Rebellion.


More to come!

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