ForeWord interviews Atina Diffley

Atina Diffley (TURN HERE SWEET CORN) talks about inspiration and the writing process.

Diffley_Turn coverDid anyone inspire you to write?

Young women farmers and kids were my inspiration. I love the phrase “the adjacent possible.” By reading another’s challenges and successes, the not-previously-thought-of or seemingly-impossible becomes untapped-potential-of-what-could-be.

How do you write? Do you have a daily routine? What's good, bad, and ugly about the process?

Each stage of the writing process is unique. I’ve learned how important it is to trust the process. I often feel like the story is writing itself and I am the steering wheel applying the craft.

In the early stages I free write and collect the material that comes to me—trusting the creative process and my unconscious mind to bring forward the relevant. Memory is not time linear. Writing one experience will stimulate another that can seem unrelated. For Turn Here Sweet Corn, I wrote 300 of these scenes without any outline or structure.

When I have a large volume of material I put it in order and write connections between the pieces. This is when the inner story comes out, and I start to understand what the deeper meaning is. If I want to get at a memory that is unclear, I visualize the part that I can remember, noticing colors or smells, focusing on sensory elements, then I rock forward and back while I write the part in detail. Buried memory will often follow out through the writing.

My mind spits out “crucial” phrases and ideas usually at inconvenient times, and despite my best intentions I rarely seem to have my little notebook when I need it, so they end up on scraps of paper. This is exciting and stimulating, but after months of it, exhausting. I need time off from it—periods with a “peaceful” mind.

If I get stuck or my self-critic slips in, I put on a record and dance. Often the answer is in the first song that comes on. Eddie Rabbit’s “I Love A Rainy Night” brought me memories of the first rain after the 1988 drought, and “Rocks Into Sand,” by Bill Kirchen, inspired writing on the geological process of soil formation.

I repeatedly expand and contract the writing. This process brings in the best material and distills it to a tighter essence. Save all drafts!

Why did you write your book?

The ecological and spiritual collapse that happened when our first farm was bulldozed has been the most powerful lesson of my life. It needed to be shared. Readers gain a deeper understanding of farming in general and organic in particular through the story. I want the world to know that organic farming works, it is based on renewable, biological processes, and it is necessary for our food future. It is crucial that we support it.

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Published in: ForeWord