Discoveries of the Writing Process

I’ll admit it. I’m a newbie to the writing life. Sure, it’s been two years since I started making some headway on this writing journey, but I’m learning all kinds of things on this adventure. And like most adventures, there are discoveries to be had. Every writer has their own process, or even quirks, when it comes to writing. Now that I’m getting (or more like attempting) to be consistent with writing, I’m learning a bunch of new things about my own writing process.

Short Attention Span
Ok, so this does not only apply to writing, but it shines through every time I sit down at the computer. Sometimes I think I have ADD “Attention Deficit Disorder.” It doesn’t have to be a bird outside the window or even an unidentified noise. “I am my worst distraction,” I always say. All it takes is a random thought: Oh yeah, I wanted to light some candles or I forgot to turn off the light in the other room. This is a real problem for me. One day I was having an especially difficult time at work focusing on the task at hand. So what did I do? I searched online for a motivational poster on focus. What else could I do? I found the perfect one for a Star Wars fan like me: Luke Skywalker attacking the death star. Because of this lack of focus and short attention span, I have discovered that thirty minutes is about all I can do at one time except for the rare occasion of being on a roll or if I’m editing. Whether I’m writing a new story, blog, or editing a work in progress, I set a timer on my phone for thirty minutes. This has two purposes: 1) it forces me to keep working for another fifteen minutes when it feels like I’ve been at it for an hour, and 2) it reminds me I’ve been sitting long enough.

sw_focus

Basic Story to Final Draft
A few weeks ago I posed a question in my Facebook writing group to see if I was the only one who ends up with more questions and quandaries with each edit. One person replied that she settles those things during the rough draft stage and uses the editing stage to fix the grammatical and technical stuff. It did not surprise me that I am backwards. I learned a long time ago that my brain is wired opposite from the majority. High school algebra class was a prime example. I picked up the difficult formulas quicker than the easier ones. In adult life, I’ve noticed that if there is an easier solution or method to accomplishing a task, I’m not the one who thinks of it. The way I go about things tends to be more complicated for others, yet it’s easier for me. No wonder I confuse people when I explain things to them. When I write, I get the basic story on paper while fixing grammatical and spelling errors as I go. Then it’s during the editing process when I look for inconsistencies in the story line. What typically happens is the story expands while I’m editing. At times the final story ends up being twice as long as the original draft. There is no right or wrong way to write or edit. Every writer discovers what works for them and then goes with it.

Best Time & Place to Write
Writing advice on when to write will vary from person to person. Some say to squeeze in thirty minutes in the morning, while others suggest staying up later to fit in some writing. For me, neither one is the “best” time. Since my brain wakes up about two hours after my eyes open, mornings are definitely not an option. By the end of the day, my brain is fried like an egg that’s been in the skillet too long. While the occasional late night does work for me, I’ve noticed that anywhere from afternoon to evening is best, depending upon my schedule. As far as the best place goes, I can concentrate better when I’m somewhere other than my house, like the library or Panera Bread (my favorite place). However, most of my writing is done from the comfort of my couch. I do have a desk at home, but it’s usually cluttered with papers and personal financial stuff. Besides, I spend close to forty hours every week at a desk so writing at my home desk doesn’t inspire me much. But no matter where I write, there has to be some level of noise to help me concentrate. Music is better, but people talking or some other type of activity around me works as well.

A sample of how I plan my life.

A sample of how I plan my life.

Scheduling/Planning
This is a trial and error aspect of this writing journey. I set goals (which I rarely meet) then schedule writing accordingly. I’ll first print out a monthly calendar, and then I use a red ink pen to note my deadlines. From there, I assign all my tasks (everything from household chores to writing projects) to a specific day with the approximate time to accomplish them. Each week, I print out a weekly calendar and get even more specific with a schedule for each day, complete with times. Yes, I know this seems extreme, but I’m returning to my college days when I would sketch out a schedule for the day. It started as a way to stay awake in my 7:30am classes, but it turned out to work for me. Before you think more highly of me than you should, I don’t always stick to the plan exactly how it’s written. Life is unpredictable so it’s a necessity to be flexible.

Writing discoveries are different for every writer; these are mine, and I’m pretty sure they won’t be the only things I discover on this journey. It’s only a start. In fact, life should be a learning experience until the day we die. When we stop learning, the fun gets sucked out of our lives. And no one wants to live life without fun. Whether you are a reader, a writer, or neither one, there are things you’ve learned about yourself during your lifetime. I’d love to hear some of them in the comments. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll inspire a new story for me to write.

 

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8 thoughts on “Discoveries of the Writing Process

  1. I don’t think you have it backwards at all. As you pointed out, each writer has their own process. There are different types of editing. Check out the following blog (which I picked at random) https://wordcafeblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/editing-workshop-2-what-are-the-different-types-of-editing/
    Clearly, you can (and possibly should) edit plot and structure in your first couple of edits. Copy editing (which is the grammar and technical stuff you mention) shouldn’t be attempted until you are satisfied with the story arc. Having said that, many people (myself included), edit as we write. So by the time we’ve finished the first draft they may have rearranged the work several times and only have the last chapter to edit. This method does not suit everybody. In fact from what I’ve heard and read it is not at all the common way to do the writing process. Do what suits you. And do what feels like fun and comfortable. That way you enjoy the writing process, rather than making it a chore. I also work from my couch or bed or dining table. It is bad for the posture and back I must admit, but sitting at my desk leaves me cold too. I like to see my sea view, which is my muse.

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    • Thanks for the link, Ally! I printed it out for future reference. After reading it, I think I may do a little bit of everything at once. However, I have to be careful not to edit a piece to death. It’s when the doubt kicks in. I would probably not get anything done if I had a sea view from my house, but I am definitely jealous. The next best thing is one of the Great Lakes just a few blocks away. Great, now you’ve got me wishing summer were here.

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  2. Thanks for sharing this. Ollie (I’ve) has written a blog – yet to be posted – about changing the places you write so you don’t get in a rut. I find that as long as it’s relatively quiet, I can write there. Some places, like the bench on the hill behind our house, is inspirational. But I can’t write there during the winter/colder months. When editing, I like to print out the story and read it somewhere other than the study where I spend most of my time. I don’t always do it that way, but when I find I’m not focusing (there’s that word) I get up and change my environment, even if it’s only going into the dining room.

    Yes, I too am my own worst enemy in terms of finding things to distract me from writing, like visiting your blog…. I think we are all our own worst enemies that way. We may blame other people, etc., but it’s really ourselves.

    Okay, my focus (again) is waning, so I should sign off now.

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    • Can’t wait to read where Ollie likes to write! Like you, I print out the project and “bleed” all over it with my trusty red ink pen. It gives me a different view and helps me catch things I might not see on the computer screen.

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  3. Love the Luke Skywalker reference! Focus is sometimes hard for me, particularly when the weather is sunny and warm and sitting in front of a computer screen just doesn’t appeal.

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    • Yes, when the weather is nice it certainly makes it harder to focus. I have a porch where I like to write from during the summer, but I live on a main street so I’m easily distracted by all the activity.

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  4. I’m surprised that you didn’t list the beach as a favorite place to write.

    I can totally identify with being your own worst distraction. Me too. “I really need to study but I’ll do it after the laundry… Or after I start dinner.” All excuses.

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    • That’s always a good place to write, Chrissy. Even though I do get distracted with all the boats and birds to watch. Maybe our schedules will sync one day this summer and you’ll catch me writing.

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