When I first started teaching writing I would tell all my students that writing was easy. You just put pen/pencil to paper and let it flow. What a great and terrible lie! Writing is not easy. I don’t know if I’d go as far to qualify it as hard, but it’s certainly difficult. The reason for this is because every writer has a different process for plying their trade.

I’ve seen Gage sit down in front of his mac and bang out posts in a half an hour. That makes me jealous; I could never do that. But I’ve also seen him agonize over sentence structure. I’m lucky because that is something I rarely do. Yet, we both have little to no trouble generating ideas for posts. It’s just the way writing is.

The blinking cursor on a new word document scares me. An art teacher in high school told me that the most terrifying thing for him was a blank canvas. He explained that blank canvas held too many possibilities. I never understood that until I started to write to get paid. There is something unwieldy about the openness of a blank screen that makes it hard to start.

Every idea I have has millions of sub-ideas and diverse paths of thought. Often, in my drafting stage, I start writing about one topic and finish writing about another in the same piece. With so many ideas floating around, it’s important that I focus on one or two linked ideas and follow them through to their conclusions. Otherwise, I’ll get lost in my own head.

Most of my ideas are usually half-formed. This is what happens when you’re constantly “on.” It’s like having an open window over a busy street. From time to time you can make out individual sounds, but mostly it’s just background noise. When I concentrate I get better results. Ideas, like Greek Goddesses, spring fully-formed from my head. From there it’s just a matter of getting them on paper before I forget them.

The most important part of my process is proofreading and the second set of eyes. I really focus on this when I talk to my students. I always read my piece out loud because when I do that, I invariably catch simple grammatical mistakes or see where I’m being too wordy. Then I have someone else read my piece. I’m all about comprehension. I know what I’m trying to say, if someone one else can figure it out, then I’ve created a clear message.

We all know it takes guts to share one’s writing, but it also takes trust. I’m not going to let someone I don’t respect give me critiques on my writing. it may sound silly, but if you think about any time you’ve let someone else read your stuff, and they haven’t been an authority figure, it’s been someone you trust enough to listen to if they have suggestions.

I like to think that this process produces amazing written pieces all the time. It doesn’t. Sometimes you’re in the zone and creating solid gold. Other times you’re just completing the work. But I’ve realized that consistency is the key.

I remember reading about a poet who used to write one poem every day. As I recall, his poetry wasn’t great which is probably why I don’t remember his name. But the fact that he got up everyday and wrote at least one poem stuck with me. I like the idea of writing everyday even if what is produced isn’t great. At least you’re practicing your craft.

Advertisements