“It’s a meat process.”
–Doublemeat Palace, Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Season Six
Okay, we’ve been building to this for a while now. Today I’d like to discuss the writing process. Almost every writer gets asked what their writing process is. I haven’t been asked much, but I like to joke that it involves a lot of internet porn.
I’ve been avoiding talking about it because it seems like such a big thing to talk about. “Kids, sit down. It’s time for “the talk.” When a man, or woman, feels a building urge inside them to tell a story they go to the drugstore to buy some things they’ll need…” Yeah, that type of big.
At the same time the phrase “writing process” evokes incongruous images. Such as, an assembly line where cars get built, or a recipe for baking a cake. As if a writer, because he/she is popular and making money, or is critically acclaimed, has found the right setup of ingredients and/or procedure to write.
I’d like to say right now: the writing process is not a magical formula for writing.
A colleague in my writing group finds he writes best at the Barnes & Noble Starbucks a few miles from where he lives. Another colleague writes between midnight and two in the morning. Laurie Hallse Anderson’s husband built her a cabin in the backyard where the only electronic thing out there is her computer. J.K. Rowling wrote exclusively in coffee shops.
I have a loving and understanding wife who let me have my own office. So when I write I go into my orange office with black trim (that’s right it’s Halloween all the time for me), sit at my black table (not a desk; desks are claustrophobic), turn on my Dubstep playlist entitled: Medreadation (‘cause I’m a dork), and write. Furthermore, if I’m writing on the computer I change the color of the page to black and the color of the letters (I wrote this blog post in green). Sometimes I come in, turn on the music and just can’t take it. So I turn it off, put in my ear plugs, and shut out the world. Sometimes, I can’t take looking at the computer screen, and I whip out a notebook and pen. When I write long hand I use a variety of pens and notebooks (right now I’m on a legal pad kick; but white paged legal pads, the yellow pages annoy the fuck out of me). Black or blue ink depends on my mood, and a red pen on standby for on the spot corrections.
To point out the obvious: all of these “writing processes” are different. Here’s the secret to the writing process: it’s just a way for you to feel comfortable enough to write. It’s almost anti-climactic in a way. Innit?
Clarification: When I say comfortable I don’t necessarily mean relaxed. My one piece of advice for the writing process is that you find a space/place/environment that’s stimulating without being distracting. When I say comfortable I mean: a place where you feel you can sink into the story and express it in the form of words via writing. Some people feel comfortable floating along the background noise of other people in coffee shops, others find shutting out the world so it’s just them, their brain, and the world of the story. Whatever works for you is what’s good for you.
One thing to keep in mind about the writing process is you. As I stated above: the writing process isn’t some magical formula. The writing process is a tool to help you write. It is not set in stone. If you find that you’re not writing as much, or are being distracted more, by what you were doing, try something else. Sometimes I write stories on the computer, and sometimes I write them long hand first. Sometimes I switch back and forth between the two. Don’t be afraid to change what you’re doing. You’re going to change as a person, so too will the way you write.