What's Your Process?
Once a week I attend a writing workshop. It's great. I get feedback on my writing, and get to read some brilliant work created by my colleagues. Last week, the topic of process came up. The author who gives the workshop asked each of us how we start creating a piece and how we work through our ideas.
I froze. Process? That sounds a lot like organization. As if I control how ideas pop into my head while I'm in the shower or on the highway. Don't get me wrong, it was great to hear what everyone had to say.
One woman said she always starts with her main character and builds from there. That sounded reasonable.
Another woman explained that her ideas are all contained in a small notebook and she chooses what to right about from there. Also, great.
It was my turn to speak. I'm not shy when it comes to speaking to a group, nor do I mind conveying personal information, but this time around, I really didn't know what to add to the conversation.
I don't have a process to define. I explained how I write at the desk in my children's playroom. Usually they're asleep or in the next room, but sometimes they're right there, at my feet building with blocks, and attacking pirate ships with dinosaur princesses. My process includes a lot of tuning out. My desk is a treasure trove of office supplies. Post its are stuck to a bulletin board, but kind of all over the wall too. Pens litter the desk because sometimes I like to write on paper, with a pink gel pen, and other times with my ultra inspiring black ink pens. There are books all over the place, mostly for research. In the middle is my laptop, surrounded by unwound paperclips, because they keep my hands busy when I don't know what to type. Is this part of the process?
The one process-like thing I do is sit, staring blankly at my screen until I notice the ideas scribbled onto those sticky notes and start writing something down. Usually, it's a conversation between two characters.
I'm writing a novel. Every time I write part of it, I think of 50 other things I could write instead. If I want to get somewhere with the book, I need to quiet those ideas so I can work, but it's hard. That's when I get up for a snack. That's got to be a valid part of the process, right? I didn't start writing my novel at the beginning. I started somewhere in the middle, jumped to the opening chapters, and am now trying to tie the two parts together. Someday I think I'll write the ending. No linear thinking for me, thanks. That would be way too organized.
During the workshop, it seemed no one else had the same strategy of post its, procrastination and paperclip problems as I do. I guess I have a lot to learn about process. In the meantime, I'm going to have a snack, block out my kids' arguments, and write a fantastic novel!