Someone emailed me the other day, an aspiring writer stuck in the mud. He wanted to know about my process. What was it? How did it develop? Do you think it might work for me?
During the Pandemic, I have written something like 70,000 words for publication and polished another 65,000 words previously written for publication that I hope to bring out this fall in the form of two books. I’ve also written another 10,000 or so words for the blog and podcast. I’ve had some prolific bursts in my time, but nothing like this. The only thing comparable was when I got dumped, got insomnia, started walking in rain, getting to school at four in the morning to write and wrote the rain book and a teaching novel that’s never been published.
I wrote back to the writer. I told him that lately the process for me is this:
- Ass to chair
- Long morning walks on the beach thinking about pieces.
- Blasting out riffs and then cleaning them up later. Not laboring for perfection in the moment.
- Absolutely no social life.
- Reading everything in sight and marveling how it works its way into the prose.
- Writing up whatever idea comes my way but realizing the idea may go nowhere useful at the time, but might become useful later. Sometimes writing on something that feels eccentric, such as wondering about the weird new names for RVs, pays off later.
- Writing letters to warm up for other writing.
- Ass to chair.
That was about it, I wrote to him, but I added I certainly don’t offer it as a guide. Every writer finds his own way or they probably don’t write.
I also told him that sometimes you are writing a book and an idea for a new book blows into your mind and the new idea excites you way more than the one you are writing. That’s happened to me several times and recently happened again.
I always write the book that blows into my mind from out of nowhere, finish that one, then go back to the halted project with fresh spirit, and finish that one as well. So far I have finished every book I have started.
He wrote back and thanked me and said he was definitely going to give that walking idea a chance.