My Writing Process: Where I am and where I’d like to be

Scenes from Sarajevo (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

You might have noticed it’s been rather quiet on the blog for the last two months. No worries. All is well. Recently got back from Cyprus. Working on a handful of assignments. Been taking on less assignments but higher paying ones in an effort to be more efficient with my freelancing energies. I’m still behind on editing photos from the Balkans while gearing up for upcoming trips to Mauritius, the Seychelles, and the UAE soon.

Plus a few personal changes too. All good. Yet as a writer, these have been some of my quietest months. I’ve been offline a lot more than usual. I’ve read and re-read pieces of fiction I’ve written during various stages of my life. I’ve read novels. Watched more period movies and historical shows. Listened to more music.

But I’ve struggled to put pen to paper. Or rather, keystrokes to keyboard.

My journal from the Balkans is filled with stories yet I haven’t started crafting and outlining them. I can’t wait to tell you Dalida’s unbelievable story from Sarajevo yet it’s already been eight months since she shared it with me.

Last week, travel journalist, photographer, and friend Ellen Barone, invited me to participate in a “blog hop” where writers share their views of the writing life. You can read Ellen’s writing process over on her blog, The Internal Traveler.

So this blog hop about writing was timely.

Next week, three writers I respect and admire— Lily Girma, Leigh Shulman, and Roni Faida —will publish their responses to the following four questions on their respective blogs as part of this continuous blog chain of writers.

Scenes from Sarajevo (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

Below are thoughts on my writing process, where I currently am, and where I’d like to be.

1)    What am I writing now?

I wrote a lot of fiction during my teenage years, but when I was 13-14, I wrote one particular novel. One with themes and characters that were way too complex for my teenage mind to comprehend and properly articulate. Yet I believed in the power of that story I was weaving together in the only way my brain could at that time.

I’ve started rewriting that novel as an adult.

It’s a trilogy that spans three generations but not necessarily in sequential order. It’s a simple story with a handful of characters yet their relationships are complex, deep, and complicated.

On the freelancing front, I’m working on some service pieces that deal with food, cruising, Stockholm’s archipelago, interior design, and migration for various clients.

2)    How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My background plays a subconscious role in a lot of my work. Strong traditions and a solid culture. Vibrant and bold colors. A heightened sense of drama. Short punchy sentences. Tension between the words.

Not necessarily in my non-narrative travel articles that are mostly service pieces heavily edited beyond recognition. But in my narrative writing. And finding the right outlets for my narrative writing has been challenging. That’s why I always submit them to competitions like Travelers’ Tales Solas Awards.

One of the reasons why I love DH Lawrence isn’t necessarily because of the content and subject matter of his books but the way he laced words and built that heightened sense of drama within his prose. He could easily dedicate 4-5 pages describing the tension between two people sitting on opposite sides of the room – one knitting, the other reading – not talking to each other.

That’s raw talent and his style inspires me a lot.

Everyone I know seems to be writing a book or two these days, and I need to move from that stage of saying “Am I ready to actually pen a travel memoir or book?” to saying “Why not? You have a heck of a lot to share!”

I have a lot to share because I have an innate curiosity about different cultures and have a unique background. This curiosity lets me seek out all the spoken and unspoken rules that govern whatever society I find myself within. Be it in Nigeria, The US, Sweden, or the many other countries I’ve spent time in. It’s that innate curiosity that allows me to respect various cultures and easily adapt without losing my sense of self.

I bring this respect and intrinsic curiosity to my work.

Scenes from Sarajevo (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

3)Why do I write what I do? 

For me, writing has been a way of pushing against invisible boundaries. Pushing against what people expect me to be doing, and just putting down words that came intuitively. Even within my fiction. My characters don’t always have to look and sound like me. If anything, it was a challenge to see how well I could decipher someone else culturally and nail their line of reasoning. Again, challenging and pushing myself beyond what I only know.

As I’ve already explained above, my love of culture and tradition makes me seek out those untold stories that are often overlooked or classified as downright boring. There is light in every corner if we look deep enough. One of the most touching compliments I’ve received as a photographer is that I know how to make the most boring scene seem interesting. A huge compliment and a trait I hope to carry into my writing.

As for my non-narrative travel writing pieces, those pay the bills. Until I build something more self-sustaining and revenue-generating with minimal daily effort, those non-narratives will be on my plate for awhile. 

4) How does my writing process work?

I work extremely well under pressure and on tight deadlines and I think this adds the tension and heightened sense of drama to my work as well.

I don’t need to go to a quiet reflective place to pen words but rather, they seem to flow when I’ve got music on.  Music seems to transport me out of the process so I’m on the outside looking in, most times objectively writing in a flow that shows and not just tells a story.

As a writer, I’m not where I’d like to be yet. It’s going to be a lifelong journey of growth and exploration of angles, subjects, and themes.

Though I am grateful to say that I have found my voice. So it’s about time to add the next chapter to that novel I’m writing…

Scenes from Sarajevo (Lola Akinmade Åkerström)

There you have it. A small glimpse into my writing mind. Meet my fellow “blog hop” writers…

About Ellen Barone

Ellen Barone

An accomplished independent writer-photographer specializing in global travel, Ellen Barone has journeyed to six continents in search of compelling travel tales and evocative images. Her photographs have appeared in National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Condé Nast Traveler, Islands, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Travel Section, and Spa, to name a few.. She provides custom travel writing and digital media to travel companies, editorial publications, online outlets and destination-based special advertising sections.

In addition, she’s cofounder and publisher of the award-winning group travel blog,YourLifeIsATrip.com, a gifted teacher, photo tour leader, radio host and author of several online columns offering advice and information for travelers.

About Lebawit Lily Girma

Lebawit Lily GirmaLebawit Lily Girma has contributed writing and photography to CNN Travel, New York Magazine, AFAR, American Way, Travel Channel, BBC Travel, and others. She’s the new author of Moon Belize for Moon Travel Guides, and is completing a second title, Moon Belize Cayes.

A serial expat, Lily’s lived and studied on three continents, including Africa–from her native Ethiopia to Cote d’Ivoire––and Europe, and is fluent in four languages.

A former attorney who ditched the office for the road in 2009, she favors all things culture and adventure, and escapes Washington DC’s winters every year. Lily also runs her award-winning travel and photography blog, Sunshine and Stilettos.

About Leigh Shulman

Leigh ShulmanLeigh Shulman has been writing as long as she can remember. She graduated Barnard with a degree in Literature & Writing then moved onto an MA in Creative Writing & Education from City College of NY.She has worked with writers of all ages and levels of experience, covering many disciplines from fiction writing to biology and business.

In addition, she designed websites for MTV and produced their online Choose Or Lose election coverage. She edited and researched for Elsevier science journals, MTV Online, Barnard College and worked individually with professional writers and artists.

She has been blogging and using social media to find readers, writing opportunities and develop collaborations since 2007, including three years as the Matador Network’s Life section editor. She runs The Writer’s Process, an online community where you share blog, business, fiction and nonfiction writing as you learn to incorporate your voice into social media and personal branding

About Roni Faida

RoniOriginally from Los Angeles, having lived in France and Spain and now calling Charlotte home,  Roni Faida (pronounced fie-e-da) is a former tour guide and a trilingual travel expert who is now traveling for fun and sharing her adventures and advice with you.

She runs a wonderful blog, The Travel Guru, where she shares articles, tips, and resources related to travel in her conversational “chatting over lunch” style of writing.

She’s fluent in three languages – English, French, and Spanish.

Photos above were shot in Sarajevo. View more images in my Bosnia & Herzegovina image bank.

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  • http://camelsandchocolate.com/ CamelsAndChocolate

    I always love peeking into fellow writers’ offices! I’ll be contributing my two cents to the Blog Hop on Wednesday.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Yay! Looking forward to reading yours as well Kristin!

  • Marilyn Gardner

    Stunning images and loved reading your words. I found you through the blog hop – glad I did.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks Marilyn!

  • http://www.thelonewriter.com Biju Sukumaran

    Great insights – and what a great project! I’m not very connected online, so this “Blog Hop” is a great intro to other writers I didn’t know about! It really helps with my freelance feelings of writing in a void.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks Biju! It’s always great to connect with other writers who are inspiring on so many levels.

  • Time Travel Plans

    Great post – I’ve been admiring your pictures for awhile, so it’s great to read about your writing aspirations. I think it’s great that you’ve taken more time to read because I think that the best writers are avid readers. For me, writing has to happen organically which is sometimes very frustrating because I have to be in a certain mood to write my best work. I have a few ideas for novels spinning around in my head, but like you, I just haven’t put the pen to paper yet. In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing your stories manifest!

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks so much!! Absolutely, I’ve been carving out time to read a lot more. Physical books and not just online or eBooks. Looking forward to also seeing your stories manifest as well. Best wishes

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  • LolaAkinmade

    Thanks Lily! Looking forward to reading your responses as well. It’s been so wonderful seeing your travel writing/photography blossom beyond measure.

  • Ezio Totorizzo

    So cool to readabout your writing process and what do you do when you have a pen or a keyboard with you. Love the story of the book that you wrote in teen ager period. So did I, and I’d love to have time for re-writing mine. Thank you so much also for sharing the names of such great writer, I’m looking all the websites. All the best from Italy Ezio

    • LolaAkinmade

      Grazie Ezio! That’s so cool that you also wrote as a teenager. It’s time to find it, reread it, and rewrite it :)

  • Leigh Shulman

    Yes, thank you for nominating me as well. It’s extremely timely for me as well, so I’m looking forward to writing mine.

    And how lovely to hear more about you and your writing. A travel memoir makes a lot of sense for you, and I can’t wait to see it. I had no idea about the novel. Very exciting! I think it will be an really interesting process taking something you wrote then and reworking it now.

    I feel very fortunate to be included in such a wonderful and diverse group of writers.

    • LolaAkinmade

      You’re welcome Leigh and thanks so much! I’m looking forward to reading your responses as well and learning from you.

  • Angela Corrias

    Thanks for sharing your writing process, Lola, your thoughts are always useful and inspiring. I hate being on a tight deadline, yet oddly enough, I, too, work better under pressure.

    • LolaAkinmade

      Thanks Angela! Isn’t it though? Having pressure or fire under our butts makes us work better and more creatively too :)

  • http://mikesowden.org/feveredmutterings Mike Sowden

    Love this. And excited to see your fiction work. We share a love for tight, tense drama where it’s all going on between the words.

    I have an awful confession. When I was in my late teens and wanting to educate myself, I used to buy books by their weight. Wordsworth printed a Classics range, hundreds of books, and a local shop stocked them all, £1 each. I used to go in and pick the thickest, because I thought they’d be the best value. Some were. That’s how I was introduced to “War and Peace”. (What a bargain! I could barely carry it.) But years later I picked up “The Great Gatsby” and Steinbeck’s “Of Mice And Men” on the recommendation of a literature-teaching friend. Both very slim books. But so very packed with those spaces between the words. Some were unbearable, stretching out forever. I later found Steinbeck wrote acres of books as tense as that, and “The Grapes Of Wrath” remains my favourite novel.

    The best writers know the power of the spaces between things, especially the ones readers populate with their own thoughts. And I think you’re one of the best writers, so I can’t wait to see what you leave out. :)

    • LolaAkinmade

      Mike, don’t make me cry! Thanks for your super kind words. You’re certainly one of my favorite (and BEST) writers. You already know I think you’re a genius anyways.

      Love that -> The power of the spaces between things. Between words. Love it!