When I first started writing, I truly embraced the creative side of the craft. A former project manager, yearning to break free, I told myself that writing is a creative endeavor that had no need for spreadsheets and plans and lists. I believed that to be truly creative and successful, I needed to just write. To free myself from boundaries and limitations. Creativity needs no organization, it must simply exist and flourish, boundless and beautiful.
Oh if I could go back to Tricia of three years ago. “No, Tricia. Hang onto those spreadsheets, Tricia. We have work to do.”
These days, I make lists and I keep spreadsheets. I make plans. I organize files and pages and resources.
And I write within it all.
These days, it’s going so much better.
I’m always interested in other writers’ processes. I sometimes read Wordswimmer, a blog by Bruce Black in which he likens writing to swimming (an analogy I’ve come to love). He regularly interviews writers about their process and I always learn something new by seeing how another person goes about their craft.
My process is a work in progress. I’ve finally created a weekly cycle that starts with planning. Each week on Thursday evenings I plan the week to come – the pieces I will write, the submissions or pitches that I plan to send. I decide on topics and I line it all up. Then, I plan out the week, slotting writing and editing and polishing and researching and scheduling and sending into the days of the week.
Saturday is terrible first draft day. I wake up before my babies and settle in with a cup of coffee and the words of some of my favorites. I let their words and heart and soul guide me to the place where my words rest, waiting to be discovered. Then, as the sun rises, I force the words through the cobwebs, through my sleepy fingers and onto my screen. I push through two to three posts this way, just typing right from my heart or my brain and letting the words fall where they may.
When the baby begins to cry and the preschooler shuffles to my side with sleepy eyes and messy hair, I close the computer. For the rest of the day, I put it all away. I may think through my words as I nurse the baby or drive to ballet class. I might even eek out another half hour while the rest of my family sleeps, but mostly, I put it all away. I let the words sit and settle.
Sunday morning brings more of the same. More seeking inspiration, more terrible first drafts. More letting the words sit and settle.
Monday rolls around and the editing begins. Sometimes I am surprised by how not-so-terrible my terrible first draft was – sometimes I change very little. Other times, I print out my work and can barely read my original words when I’m done for all of the scratching out and scribbling and moving of pieces. I’ve come to embrace editing as part of my process. I’ve started to enjoy it just a little bit, feeling comfortable in the changing and rearranging. I’ve found freedom in letting go of phrases that sounded so perfect on Saturday morning but just don’t do what they need to on Tuesday night. I remember once hearing a quote about sculpting – that the final creation is in that giant block of stone, just waiting to be freed. I think of my final drafts this way too. They are there, in my mess of words and poorly contracted phrases and raw emotion, just waiting to break free into smooth, refined curves. Telling myself that the final draft, the one that will make me happy, is in there, helps me push through.
And then, as the week goes on, I publish and I send. From my desk, deep breaths and clicks intertwine to create the soundtrack to my week. Take a deep breath, here goes, godspeed brave words, and click.
It’s been a few months and this process is working for me, so far. I’m curious to see how it changes and morphs around my children’s changing schedules, my own efficiencies realized, my growing comfort with writing and editing and moving words and phrases. But for now, it works.
What is your writing process? Do you plan and organize and list? How have you grown comfortable with the various tasks of writing?