Creating in Flow

The world of creativity—with a twist of rationality

Writing About Lust, Honestly

From lust to love, suicide to cancer, digging deep improves writing.

lust
I recently had the pleasure of getting to know the creative works of author and poet Diana Raab, Ph.D. She’s the author of two memoirs, two anthologies, and four books of poetry, including her latest, Lust (CW Books). She also blogs for Psychology Today, Huffington Post, and BrainSpeak.

Q&A with Diana Raab:

Q: Did the poems in Lust come to you over a long period of time before you decided to put them together in a book?

I have actually been writing these poems over a period of 15 years. They have been on a computer file. While I began writing poems as a child, my sexier poems were inspired years ago by diarist and author, Anaïs Nin. Reading her journals taught me the importance of emotional honesty, whether writing fiction, nonfiction, or poetry.

When my computer file had enough poems to fill a book, I pulled together my latest collection called Lust. I finally felt that the universe was ready to receive these very intimate narrative poems. Lust was released on Valentine’s Day 2014. Timing is everything—with lovemaking and book launching!

Q: You’ve edited a book about writers’ journals, Writers and Their Notebooks. How does your own journaling habit inform your poetry?

Great question! All my poems begin on the pages of my journals. My mother gave me my first journal at the age of 10 to help me cope with my grandmother’s suicide. Since then, I have been using journaling and writing as a way of healing and transformation.

After receiving my MFA in Creative Nonfiction in the early 2000’s, I realized that many other writers use journals for jottings and inspiration for their work. Thus, I solicited essays from esteemed writers on the role of journals in their lives as writers, thus, the release of Writers and Their Notebooks, which has also been used as a college textbook in creative writing programs.

Q: What is your poetry writing process? Do you write according to a disciplined schedule, or do you await the muse? Do you often enter a flow state where you lose yourself in an altered kind of consciousness?

All my poetry is inspired without a disciplined routine. In fact, when out of my routine is when I craft my best poetry. I always carry a journal with me, sometimes small in my purse, other times larger. This is because I am often inspired at the most unexpected times, such as when driving on the freeway. I would be the one pulled aside on the shoulder writing a poem in my journal, or the one on the mountaintop writing in the middle of a hike.

My poems most often begin with a title which is often connected to an image or feeling. When I begin writing, I never know where the poem is going. Yes. I do enter into a flow state and sometimes an altered state of consciousness. In fact, quite often I will look back at a poem in my journal and not even remember writing it. I transcend. I escape. I find peace in my poetry. It’s a different type of meditation.

Q: We both love words more than anything. If you had to give up writing, or reading, or both, how would you cope?

Tough question, but I am a survivor and would definitely find my way. My biggest fear is my loss of vision, which is why I am diligent about eye exams and wearing eyeglasses when needed. I meditate an hour a day; if I lost my vision, I would probably double or triple that number! I would also probably get a good tape recorder and hire a transcriber to transcribe my stories. Audio books would become a staple in my literary diet.

Lust bookcover Diana Raab
Q: Writing is healing, and you studied that for your doctorate in transpersonal psychology. Will that be a book, too?

I worked hard to earn my Ph.D., but enjoyed every minute of my three-year program, which included class work and research. My research methodology was narrative inquiry, and is called Creative Transcendence: Memoir Writing for Transformation and Empowerment. I would love to turn it into a book but need to think about how.

Q: Did your writing change in any way after your breast cancer diagnosis? You wrote memoirs about that, but how did the experience inform your erotic poetry writing?

As I mentioned above, I have been writing since the age of 10. I wrote when my grandmother died, during my turbulent adolescence, during three high-risk pregnancies, and during my two bouts with cancer. My two memoirs erupted from my MFA thesis. What changed in my writing at that time was that the program taught me how to go deeper into my psyche. As a former journalist, I realized that my style was reportage, skimming the surface of subjects. When I studied journalism in the 1970s, the writing was supposed to be purely objective. The situation is different now.

My background as a registered nurse also helped me write my breast cancer memoir, Healing With Words, in that the book became a self-help memoir with medical descriptions and writing prompts throughout.

Interesting question about cancer informing erotic poetry. Never thought about that. However, in retrospect, when you face your own mortality, you become inspired to tap into your inner voice and deepest needs and desires. In a way, the cancer gave me courage and dissipated my fear in so many aspects and paths of my life.

Q: You blog, too, including here at PT. How is blogging different from your other sorts of writing?

Blogging can be considered public journaling. I do a lot of personal writing so my blogging is really a continuation of that. Like essays and book-length works, the most compelling blogs have beginnings, middles, and endings, but it’s not always necessary. Of course, poetry is in a category by itself!

Copyright (c) 2014 by Susan K. Perry, author of Kylie’s Heel

Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and author. Her current focus is on the creative aspects of rationality and atheism.

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