How This Writer Writes

 

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I don’t mean handwriting. What I mean is the journey my story makes from brain to page/screen. The process, rather than the actual act – well the act, too. Perhaps I should explain.

When a non-writer hears that I’m going to be spending the day writing, I think they envision me in front of my computer or hunched over my desk with pencil and paper. That would be the truth – sort of. Here’s the reality.

When I decided to become a serious writer, I pictured myself seated in front of my computer, merrily composing a near-perfect manuscript. The words would fly effortlessly from my fingertips into a draft that would need minimal, if any, editing. Or, I’d be sitting on the sunny bank of a beautiful stream with my pencil and paper, capturing the essence of a particularly significant scene.

Truth is, I spend countless hours in front of my computer, spewing scenes that will be cut or modified at some later date (I need a new chair). If the scene gods are smiling, one might practically write itself (cue the effortlessly flying words from my fingertips). When that happens, I enter a zone of detached reality – I have no concept of time or much of anything outside the realm of my story. I treasure those moments because they’re the exception, not the rule.

If someone were to set up a camera in my home on a typical “writing day,” (never gonna happen), they would be confused at what would appear to be dis-jointed, haphazard activities. Pretend you’re watching a movie on fast-forward:  computer – laundry – computer – make bed – computer – wash dishes – computer – feed the cats. Get the idea?

The viewer might scoff at my “lack of discipline” and wonder how I managed to get anything on the page at all. The reality is that I am still writing when I’m away from the computer. I might be trying to figure out where the scene has to end, what needs to happen in the next, or decide if the one I just wrote has fulfilled its purpose in moving the story forward. If the camera found me outside doing yard work, it’s because the scene I just finished writing was emotionally painful and traumatic to one or more of my characters, and I needed to physically get away from it for a while.

The hunching with paper and pencil? I do that in bed, not at my desk. When I’m just starting a project, tossing out ideas, or am stuck somewhere along the way, I get away from the computer and relax with keywords, phrases, or scenario bits that have never failed to solve the writing problem I’m facing.

I have some other personal tactics that I’m choosing not to share, so that’s as close as you’re going to get to actually seeing me in the process of writing. Sorry, no cameras allowed.

 

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