A Writer's Life: My writing process
Whenever I’ve seen writers being interviewed, people have asked them about their writing process. Some answer this question with comments about where or when they like to write, others answer it with how they tackle a new idea and if they plot every detail out or if they just jump into the writing of it, and yet others respond with comments on the research they do first, the questions they ask, the specific details they like to know before they even begin writing a word of the story itself. Every time I hear them answer, they seem so certain in their response to this. Yet when I think about how I would answer such a question, my answer does not seem neat and clean - it seems as messy and chaotic as my life often appears to be.
I write when it fits, around the life that I’m living, and that gives me the inspiration to write at all. Sometimes that means I get an idea and I dive right into it, writing what’s in my head so that I get it out of there and onto the page. Other times it means that I like to sit down and nut out the details, plotting away to my heart’s content as I think about characters and all that makes them up, what their backstory looks like, and what I want to achieve from a particular story line. Sometimes I open my Internet browser and start looking up pictures of what I think my characters might look like, or places I think my stories might be set, images that match what I see in my head to serve as inspiration for the narrative. Other times I’ll do specific research - looking up facts, locations, laws, details of the many things I don’t know so that what I’m writing is accurate and authentic.
Some days I will get up at 4 or 5 in the morning and write because I woke up needing it more than I needed to sleep that day. Other days the rain on my roof will make me long to have a pen and paper in hand and I’ll curl up to write — oh, how I miss my fireplace in this new home to lay before while writing in those moments! Some days, I’ll scribble a note on a scrap of paper between teaching so that I don’t lose a thought, then come back to it once I’m home and my work is done for the day. I schedule regular writing time in to make sure there are some solid blocks where I know I’ll be able to get something down, while sometimes I’ll talk to myself, recording the conversation on my phone so that the idea isn’t lost by the time I’m in a place where I can actually stop to capture it in more detail. Every night at bedtime, I tell my son a story that we are making up together, and every time I mean to write it down and forget to do so. The next night, I ask him what has happened so far and he remembers for me (it’s pretty fabulous - there’s a troll, a fairy, a giant, a unicorn, a cat, and a naughty monkey so far).
My office is full of little scraps of paper, of notebooks half full of thoughts, of old laptops kept for the ideas that are saved within their hard drives. I laughed with a friend just this week about my obsessive need to always have a pen and notebook handy lest a thought come that I don’t remember to put down on the page. As I tell my students constantly, if I don’t write it down then and there, I won’t remember it later.
So I guess my process is chaotic, and unorganised, and messy, and yet it feels pretty damn good to me.