“I believe in emotional truth over literal truth….I inhale work that speaks to me of universal emotional truths.”
—Jordan E. Rosenfeld
JORDAN E. ROSENFELD, the author of FORGED IN GRACE and numerous books about the writing craft including Make A Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books) and Write Free! Attracting the Creative Life with Rebecca Lawton (BeijaFlor Books). Her works has appeared in asAlterNet.org, Publisher’s Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle, The St. Petersburg Times, The Writer and Writer’s Digest magazine. Her book commentaries have appeared on The California Report, a news-magazine produced by NPR-affiliate KQED radio.
Meredith: What does truth in writing mean–to you?
JORDAN: I believe in emotional truth over literal truth. Since memory and perception of events are so subjective (and selective), all we can really rely upon are our feelings. So I seek to create an emotional truth in what I write—meaning, do the characters experience and elicit feelings that the reader can relate to? Do the events evoke something real? Similarly, I inhale work that speaks to me of universal emotional truths.
Meredith: Does your creative process come from a place of something that scares you or from a place of welcoming familiarity? Now answer this–which is the preferable path to creativity…for you?
JORDAN: For a long time my creative process was mostly familiar, and comfortable, but I recently learned that I was writing within a too-comfortable zone, and with this novel, I kept getting stuck and stucker (sic!). My way of dealing with that (avoiding the deeper material) was to throw in Big. Plot. Twists. My editor, Allison McCabe, was able to help me get past that tendency but not until I gutted a nearly 400 page novel, took it down to 119 pages and then wrote it back up. It was agonizing and yet it cracked me open and it really was almost euphoric; I felt like I was in a master class for my creative soul. In that, a new creative process was born for me, a scarier one, in which I made friends with destruction and learned how to push myself to deeper places inside me, thus in the work. And what prompted all of this was two-fold: my husband coming to me about a year ago and telling me he really felt I needed to go for it, write more and work less; and my son (age 4) finally being old enough that I’ve begun to “reclaim” not only my time but my sense of self beyond motherhood, or in addition to it.
But on my process in general I always say: I bleed the darkness onto the page, so I can live a life of light.
Meredith: How has the publishing process changed your view of writing? Or has it? What has it done to your craft, your work? How has it helped (or challenged) you to dig deeper and move forward at once?
JORDAN: Well, this isn’t the first time I’ve been published. But my first two published books were both non-fiction. This process has taught me so much about being rigorous with the work, about making a commitment to it that I can’t turn away from. The business of publishing will always be the business of publishing—a little maddening, hard to understand, concerned with the bottom line over the art. Choosing an alternative means to publishing gave me a certain kind of freedom, but I am also having to work three times harder than with any other book.
Meredith: I’ve only asked this question less than a handful of times, but feel like you’re the perfect person to ask it again—Having never been pregnant myself, I wait for (what I feel is) the perfect time to ask this, so here goes: Is birthing a story really like birthing a baby? (I hear this analogy a lot but, well, have never been sure what to think.) If so, does the gestation period feel the same—heartburn [and fantasy, too] and all? How about birthing the actual publication of the book? So I’m asking about the story part, and the biz part, too. Oh, and if not, then what’s it like? Can you create an analogy?
JORDAN: In some ways it’s an apt analogy but I’d say gestating and birthing a novel is WAY more painful than birthing a baby because it goes on and on and on, is rife with so much more doubt and uncertainty and the end reward is not a beautiful, healthy child, but an artistic creation that other people may or may not like (well, come to think of it, I suppose that is the way it works with one’s children, too). Although my labor was long, and yes, the most physically painful experience of my life, novel writing is just a much more complex process.
Meredith: Do you make any promises to yourself before you sit down to write? Any deals?
JORDAN: Yes, I make myself the promise not to rely upon divine inspiration but to simply engage in the act of writing and keep writing, knowing that like a tight muscle, the muse will warm and flow and begin to offer me gems if I keep at it. As for deals…I reward myself. Sometimes I withhold from myself, really until the act is done—although seeing as I’m not eating sugar or drinking alcohol right now, and I don’t shop much, it’s hard to find a reward. Coffee, I guess.
JORDAN lives in Northern California and online here: www.jordanrosenfeld.net