My writing process is a disaster. It’s a miracle I get anything done. I don’t know how other people write, because I’ve never heard any of my favourite writers describe their process. So I’m going to talk about mine, in the hopes that it might be illuminating. Though it’s more likely to be horrifying.
I have the most energy first thing in the morning. I get up, immediately get on the computer, and immediately get distracted by Facebook. I may or may not (but I probably will) look at some of my other favourite websites: The AV Club, The Toronto Star, Slate, Buzzfeed, the list goes on. If I am weak, I might end up reading some articles. If I am extremely weak, that is where my day ends.
Hopefully I’m able to pull myself off the Internet after about ten or fifteen minutes. Usually I have some idea of what I want to write that day. If it’s something I’ve already started, I’ll reread what I’ve written so far, do some revision, or realize it’s total crap and Christ what am I doing with my life oh shit I’m doomed I’m fucking doomed.
If I experience the latter reaction, it’s back to the Internet for anywhere between one minute and five hours.
If I decide what I’ve written is actually worth a damn, then I’ll continue writing it. I may or may not finish it that day.
If I’m starting a project from scratch- a blog entry, a short story, or a new chapter in a book- there are a few different ways I might approach it. I might just start writing, I might start writing, then delete the first sentence or the first paragraph two or three times before finding something I like, or I might write a brief outline.
My outlines might be anything from “Bill’s family is killed in front of him and he moves in with Dennis” (that’s a short story I’m currently working on) to something which is twelve pages long (my novel; that outline includes- among other things- all major and minor plot points, the names of all the characters, and a handful of character bios).
I generally don’t write much over the course of a day, and I generally don’t write for long. My energy level crashes at about two and only recovers at around five or six, by which time I have to focus on finding dinner. So I write quickly, and usually only write between a paragraph to two pages. Sometimes- once or twice a month- I write more than that. I’m capable of writing six to nine pages in a day, but beyond that, it gets ugly.
My writing process is incredibly kinetic. I’m constantly getting up, pacing, walking to the window, walking back, sometimes getting a snack or going to the bathroom. Sometimes I’ll even go outside and walk around the block. While I’m writing, I’m constantly moving. It helps me think.
Unfortunately, all other physical processes beyond basic movement get sidelined. It’s such an enormous pain in the ass to feel things like thirst or hunger or fatigue. I have to monitor my body to see whether I’m feeling these things, because it’s hard for me to tell if I am or not. And that’s distracting.
Sometimes I get an intense flood of ideas and I just want to work and I want to get it all down and I inevitably find myself in a race against time, because pretty soon my body’s gives out. I naturally hit a wall around two o’clock, and matters aren’t helped by the fact that I usually start writing as soon as I get up. That means I often won’t eat until early afternoon. Sometimes I’ll eat before then as a conciliatory gesture to my stubborn body: Here, if I throw a few pieces of raisin bread in you, will you let me fucking think?
There’s a deep, constant tension between my body and my mind. Fortunately, apart from the occasional dead-end and difficulty getting started, I rarely have any conflict between the different components of my self.
I don’t feel the need to rewrite whole projects, I usually only write one draft (though I make minor revisions along the way), and generally after I’ve finished I’m satisfied with the result.
Sometimes- in order to get a proper perspective- I’ll set aside a piece of writing for a day or two after I’m finished before reading it and deciding if it needs more work. I almost never ask for other people’s input- I find other people are too busy, and their distracted, hasty judgments are generally unhelpful.
For me, writing is a solitary exercise, which is another reason why I wanted to explain my process, and also why I enjoy blogging. It’s weird being in my head so often with no connection to the outside world. It’s a relief to have an outlet.