I help out over at a LiveJournal group, Brigit’s Flame–a safe place for writers who like to talk about writing and join in weekly competitions. We post daily “chatters”, and I have Tuesdays! Today’s topic is the non-writing process. Feel free to join in over at LiveJournal, our Facebook Page, or here. We also have daily Twitter updates @flamestorming.
Early on in my … let’s call it my writing education… I was under the impression that the process should be all hell-fire quick, steaming with inspiration and facts (even fiction is based on some fact), and astonishing wit. I was under the impression that a real writer could and should swallow a topic, then, within a pre-set (and brief) period of time, regurgitate a thousand beautiful words on that topic that drew readers in to marvel over genius perspective. This is how journalists, comedians, screenwriters, and novelists all work, right? This is how it’s done.
This is why for so long I believed myself to be an utter failure, and I why I often struggle with the feeling of inevitable failure. I labor.
Brainstorming 200 word stories for a fiction class caused finger paralysis. Timed exams that require answers in essay form cause my lungs to stop working. Putting together a “quick” chatter post is impossible for me–the most brief of chatters takes me close to two hours. Even now.
It’s a good thing I wasn’t born in the Wild Old West with a dream of being a gunslinger.
Even after two consecutive years of chatting with other writers (here & at school) about their process, after five or so years of reading editorials and memoirs and various other articles written by writers on writing, subconsciously I held on to the idea that it all had to be quick and brilliant or I was a complete loser.
Only recently have I begun to loosen my hold on that school of thought. In spite of earlier quickly-forgotten epiphanies, only recently has the understanding begun to truly sink in that the writing process is as individual as a person’s palate, pace or gait, or speech pattern.
Besides the rarely discussed, and vital, individuality of each writer, there is the rarley discussed and all important Non-Writing Process–the time in which we savor and filter our experiences, try out the taste of rare word combinations, discover the individual perspectives of our characters, or subjects; the time in which we come to terms with, embrace or discard our individual understanding and value of “memory”, or “facts”. The non-writing process is the time in which we practice forming our own style, our own vision, our own voice (and perhaps, decide whether or not to dally around with grammar rules).
What is involved in your non-writing process? Do you take mental notes, photographs, do you keep a notebook or digital recorder handy? Do you read EVERYTHING? Do you journal, or sketch, or get your fingernails dirty in the garden? Or… would you be a legendary gunslinger in the Wild Old West?
An interesting article on one writer’s non-writing process can be found here.