Monday, May 06, 2013

Is Writing a Journey, or Just a Pit-Stop Along The Way?

 Today I'm pleased to host Jeannette de Beauvoir, a seasoned pro in the writing business.

Jeannette de Beauvoir
So I’m a writer.

We don’t say that in the same way that bankers do, or hair stylists, or store managers. We’re different, in that we really are what we do. Writers are never not writing, even when they’re not actually sitting in front of the keyboard.

So you have to be careful around us. We listen for a turn of phrase we may love, we hear your stories of family conflicts and dreams deferred and reactions to news stories, and we tuck everything away. We use you.

I’m a shameless example. I carry a notebook with me. I eavesdrop on conversations, I peer into lighted rooms at night, I ask seemingly innocent questions of strangers. All of my experiences are ultimately about words: how I’m going to render what I’m seeing or hearing or doing into words, which character can best use this situation or that conversation and make the words their own … well, you get my drift. I’m never not thinking about writing.

So if you meet me, beware. You’ve been warned.

Does it mean that I live vicariously through others’ experiences? Perhaps; but I rather think not. I live, if anything, in the liminality between reality and fiction, in the margins of stories, in the truths that can only be absorbed through novels. Toni Morrison once said in an interview, “I’m just trying to look at something without blinking.”
And maybe that describes best who I am. My work is dark, because I need to look at the world
without blinking. I explore what it might mean to a woman to learn that her beloved father may also be a war criminal. I write about a war hero’s deteriorating mental health and his family’s impatience with his narrowed world. I think about how far a person may be pushed when her husband abuses her and her child is murdered. I bring to light the hundreds of orphans misclassified as insane by a heartless system, and the CIA experiments that benefited from it. I fill a chapbook with poetry trying to get at the experience of domestic violence.

People talk about writing as a journey. As a metaphor. As a way of making sense of the senseless. For me, though, it’s always simply been an identifier. I’m not very good at much else in life besides writing, and I’ve never really wanted to do anything besides write. Does that make my writing a vehicle; does it mean that I’m a seasoned and savvy traveler of the interior? Or is it just who I am?

I don’t know, and I suspect that the answer is different for everyone. I’d be interested in hearing what your answer is … is your writing a journey? Or is it something that you do on the way somewhere else?

Or am I just asking the question as a way of peering into your soul for more material? When you’re talking with a writer, you’ll never really know.

Jeannette de Beauvoir is an award-winning novelist, poet, and playwright, who divides her life between Cape Cod and Montréal and spends far too much time thinking about all these things. Read more about her at


Carter said...

I'm sometimes a writer, but probably more often an editor. There's a difference.:-)

Rick Bylina said...

Stop looking into my writing soul. I'm a writer looking at a writer who's looking for a story from a writer. Whoever blinks first has to write a different story. Yes, writing is a 24-hour a day occupation. What was that dream upon awakening? Did I really do that or did someone tell me about that girl on the dream begging me to join her. No, it was a dream. Did I say that outloud? Did you take my story away from me with you to exploit? I guess I gave you explicit permission when I blinked. I'm a writer. I should have known better.

Carry on.

Maryann Miller said...

I do process my life through my writing in some ways. Not every story is so closely connected, but I can see that some of my stories were born from a desire to think through some issue that impacted me.

Karen said...

I whole heartedly agree, Jeannette. I have an infinite capacity for pissing people off, and I don't mind returning the favor. Bob Sanchez may still be annoyed with me for saying he writes like Raymond Chandler on crack cocaine (or at least crank). Anyone is fair game for my keybard. As my granddaughter, Megan, so succinctly puts it, "Please do not piss off the author. She will put you in a book and kill you!"

Karen Mabry Rice
Author of Ghost Walk,
Soon to be available at
Home Page:

Bob Sanchez said...

Karen, if you want to piss me off, you're going to have to do better.

Karen said...

Give me time, Bob. I just pissed off Clifford Irving by giving his new book a bad review. I haven't yet decided whether or not to respond to him. Maybe when I'm in a better mood. LOL!

Bob Sanchez said...

The dirty little secret, Karen, is that most people don't read book reviews. I know; I've written hundreds of them. That's why when someone tells me my stuff is #@!$$%, I laugh it off. But when I get a good review I make sure everyone knows about it.

Morgan Mandel said...

Yes, we writers are devious characters who suffer from a compulsion to analyze how to fit life into books.

Morgan Mandel

Judith S said...

Karen, "Keybard"--new to me, and wow! I'm a writer 24/7/365 days a year. I get kicked by a horse (not often) and record the pain and study the bruise as it goes from purple to that sickly green and yellow and gravity pulls it down my leg. Bits of everyone I know end up in my books, and a lot more of some in camouflage. Dreams, the wreck, the betrayal, the burnt beans--all fair game. I don't write to escape my life but to explore and honor it.

Out now on Amazon!—A Stallion to Die For: an equestrian suspense
Qualifying for the Olympics can be deadly for woman and horse.

Helen Ginger said...

I most definitely would call my writing a journey. Usually, it's a journey I take with the characters.

Karen said...

Oh, Judith - I'm so jealous! I love horses & haven't ridden in years. My kids & grandkids tell me I'm too old now. Have I got news for them! LOL! I'll look for "A Stallion to Die For." I write mysteries, too & love 'em!
PS - "keyboard" is amazing to me, too. I started writing on a Big Chief tablet with a #2 pencil, although you don't look old enough to know what that is. LOL!

Mary Pebble said...

I agree with you Judith. I know if I ain't at my keyboard, that doesn't mean I'm not planning or thinking. I am guilty of the same things you are. All my friends know they need to be careful what they say around me. Not only may I use it, but I was never good at keeping secrets. Writing though has given me an outlet, a way to tell the world what I know (or don't know, or think I know) through fiction.
It's always the small things in life though that grab my attention, like the two year old that tried to do laundry, or the woman that tried to clean her gutters and didn't have a ladder, so she stood on the roof of her car.
One word of advice...guard your little notebook!!!
PS - I started on an "I can write!" tablet with the fat crayons. My first story was four lines long. - I have a dog. We like to dig. We digged steps in a yard. Poo is my best frend and we got mudy.

Lee said...

I'm totally in agreement, Jeanette. I can't not write, even if at the moments I'm not committing words to electronic storage. Everything is grist for the mill.

Rhonda Parrish said...

I think you make a good point when you say writers are what we do. It's true. So very true LOL

Shaunda said...

I love Toni's comment. And what an eloquent post it is wrapped up in. Thank you for sharing. As for my journey, it seems like a roller coaster. Sometimes I love it, other times I hate it, but I always keep coming back to it. Best wishes with your own journey.

Shannon Lawrence said...

You are so right! I collect little tidbits from all around me, and I also carry a notebook around. I know a local writer who calls herself the Conversational Shoplifter, because she absorbs what's happening all around her and journals what she hears. She does random Facebook posts of conversations going on around her.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

Cherie Reich said...

That's so, so true about writers! We are never not being a writer.