An Interview on the Writing Process & How San Antonio Writers are Writing through COVID-19
GEMINI INK: What role do you think writing plays in life and how is that role revealing itself as you shelter-in-place during this pandemic?
Writing plays a significant and underrated role in our lives. As I observe this pandemic, I am learning that the written word is at the foundation of how we communicate with each other; text, e-mails, blogging, etc. I think that I have written and read more documents now than I have in my entire life. I admit that I am a bit overwhelmed. I also find that writing can be overrated as we overemphasize an individual’s intelligence based on how they express themselves in writing. We forget that language is quite abstract and judge others where we should be encouraging them. Words are at risk of being misinterpreted. It can be difficult to gauge context, tone, and other important listening information with writing alone. I exercise caution with how I write.
GEMINI INK: Do you have any rituals you perform before you get started writing—tics, habits, even special ceremonies? How important is it to you to have a sense of sameness about your writing routine?
I do not have any rituals that I perform before I begin writing. I do not know if that is a bad thing. *laughs* I have little habits, but I guess I am still developing a solid routine.
GEMINI INK: What is your favorite piece of writing advice, or feel free to offer a thought or suggestion that you feel has helped you write, even on days when the muse seemed far away?
My favorite piece of writing advice is to pace oneself and to write in drafts. I used to feel like I had to have the perfect writing the first go around. That ideology caused me stress and limited my creativity. It is too much pressure! I also practice a technique I have developed called Expression Mapping. It creates content and eases writer’s block. Hopefully, I can offer this as a workshop with Gemini Ink soon, *wink*. Lastly, journal. Write just because.
GEMINI INK: During these times of shelter-in-place, has your writing routine or habits changed in any way? If they have, can you comment on this? And if they have not, what about your routine is helping you most negotiate this highly unusual time?
The most significant change in my writing habit during the pandemic has been the effects of distance learning. I teach visual arts to middle school children and that requires constant feedback. Teaching remotely, I have had to write what I would normally provide verbally. “O, the horror!” I have made solid gains with patience though and it has enhanced my range in communication!
GEMINI INK: What theme or symbol often emerges in your work? Why? Do you have any new images or themes that are surfacing as you write during this pandemic?
I often write about social and political issues. When I was younger these themes were based more on observation and raw emotion. Though these topics are still present in my work, my familiarity with them has evolved. I write now from experience and communicate solutions based on what paths have been successful for me. I currently view my works as a method of study and resolve or healing rather than simply expressing myself. I am also collaborating with other writers more. These projects expand my horizons which is fun and challenging.
GEMINI INK: Describe your first writing desk. How is this different (or not) from your current writing desk?
My writing desk is in my mind! I tend to compose thoughts and edit them before I ever sit down to write. I have attempted to keep a desk and it does not work out for me, grade school or adulthood. I prefer to be outside, connecting with nature for a writing session.
GEMINI INK: Can you name a source you return to for ongoing or periodic creative inspiration?
I keep various dictionaries and a thesaurus nearby. I am fascinated by words and their etymology. Studying text is a tremendous source of inspiration for me.
GEMINI INK: Do you have a favorite writing tool?
I have two favorite writing tools. If we are talking pen and paper, I need a Pentel Medium Point, Ballpoint Pen for the ultimate writing experience! On the more technical side, I have a reMarkable writing tablet. I love it. It is … remarkable! *finger guns, finger guns*
GEMINI INK: Does good writing result from best practices, magic, or a bit of both? Or does effective writing stem from something else not mentioned here?
What a tough question. … Good writing is subjective. Of course, there are “rules” of grammar, but that can easily be overshadowed by language diversity and the universe of creative expression. Best practices can improve measurable elements of writing however, there must exist a passion within the writer. That passion, that magic is the well from which “good writing” is derived.
GEMINI INK: What is your next project?
I am my own project and that is a daily exercise! Seriously though, I look forward to creating a workshop with Gemini Ink. I have led several projects in this space and I absolutely love it! I have the pleasure of contributing a few poems to San Antonio Museum of Art in response to works from their Abstract Womanism curation. I will be joined by Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson, Anel Flores, Sunni Soper and Dulcie David Veluthukaran. I am excited for that! Hopefully, we can gather safely soon. The Bad Mama Jama Remix was postponed, and I am heavily anticipating that performance.
Aminah Decé is trained at the World Combat Academy, Institute of Martial Science and maintains degrees in The Humanities, Fine Arts & Art History/Criticism from UTSA. Under the pseudonym P16 she began her literary journey as a slam poet in Killeen, Texas. Aminah currently teaches Visual Arts at Kirby Middle School and collaborates with local artists and organizations to create Happenings and conducts workshops in the community that promotes the skills of self-awareness and trauma healing through creativity.
Aminah will be teaching A Map to Poetry: Techniques to Defeat Writer’s Block, a 3-session workshop where students will explore the meaning of words through expression-mapping, linguistics, and etymology to be used as the foundation of haikus, poems, or short stories. The workshop starts on November 12th.