The Writing Mental Process
“If you have not yet done so, would you be willing to write a hub (or a blog article or series) on the tips and tricks you use to be consistently very prolific, with consistently high quality? Do you use voice recognition software? Which? Do you have a personal assistant to shave you and spoon feed you and tie your shoes while you keep writing nonstop? Do you have mental tricks for staying focused? Do you speed type? Do you have ways to give yourself "deadlines" even though you are your own boss? Is being free of procrastination, frittering, daydreaming, and sidetracks a divine gift? Do you use time management software or have a time management system? Do you have daily or other time unit writing goals? Do you do first drafts by longhand, by typing, by dictation, or other? Do you think as you write or have the whole work in your head before you start writing -- or other? Do ideas come to you out of the blue in a constant stream of inspiration?”
The Answers to Those Questions
I spent exactly 42 minutes finding the comment posted above; I couldn’t remember on which hub it was made, so I had to scan a few before I found it. It came from a friend of mine on HubPabes; Brian is his name, and his comment gave me a chuckle, especially the part about a personal assistant who shaves me and spoon feeds me while I write nonstop.
But there are some serious aspects to that comment that I think I’ll respond to today, mainly because I have seen variations of them quite often over the past eighteen months on HubPages.
If you are ready then let’s dive headfirst into the whole writing process. I’ll tell you how I do things and then I’ll have some suggestions towards the end that might give you some inspiration.
I can only tell you what works for me, and regarding time management what works is to treat my writing career like the job it is. It is a job of passion to be sure but it is still a job Monday through Friday, fifty-two weeks per year. I am up every morning at six and I am in my writing studio by seven. Customers are dealt with from 7-10, and from 10-4 I write articles, submit articles and work on other projects that are always lurking in the periphery.
Friends and relatives know that writing is my job. They know that I am not available to meet for coffee or to go play or to visit during my workday. I am dead serious about this and they know that.
I realize that not everyone writes full-time. Many of you have jobs and kids and whatever, and you only have a limited number of hours that you can devote to writing….still….I think it is extremely important that a designated time be set aside for writing each and every week, and that time is sacred if you are serious about writing.
I don’t know what kind of person you are with regards to organizational skills. I am a very, very organized person; some would say I have tunnel vision and an obsession with writing, and that may be closer to the truth than I care to think about at this time, but the fact is that I let nothing get in the way of my writing. I only have a limited amount of time left on this planet and I have a ton of things I want to accomplish. I have a grand plan that I am working on, and if I’m going to achieve that plan then I need to be serious about it.
I have written before about goals and the importance of having a master plan, but for those of you who missed those articles, I’ll briefly gloss over it again.
I have a master plan. I know exactly where I want to be with my writing career in five years. Why five years? Because that’s how long it took Harper Lee to realize her dream with “To Kill A Mockingbird” and I figure if it was good enough for that genius then it is good enough for me.
Once I established what my goal was, I then had to break it down into manageable bits and pieces, and I have done that as well. In effect I made an outline of my plan with subheadings, and each subheading is aimed at achieving the ultimate goal.
I have spent the past eighteen months establishing a body of work. Now that I have done that I can move on to being published in magazines and newspapers, my next step in the plan. Imagine a pyramid if you will. I have built the foundation and now I am layering towards the top.
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Are you a first draft and done type of person?
First Drafts or Whatever
I have an unorthodox method of writing, completely at odds with the way I taught creative writing when I was a teacher. I always taught my students to outline and do rough drafts, mainly because middle school and high school students have a hard time with organization and staying on track.
I, however, have no such problem, and I will generally write an entire article and be done with it after the first draft. I do not outline. When I wrote my novel “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday To Today” the outline was in my head. 80,000 words later the novel was done. I could see the entire story as I wrote it, and all that was left for me to do was create scenes and develop characters that fit within that mental story outline. At times the characters wrote the book; they took on a life of their own and I just left them alone to tell the story in their own words.
My method of writing is not for everyone; in fact, I don’t recommend it for many writers. I am a big advocate for re-writes, and I will touch up most articles that I write, but rarely do I do a complete overhaul of an article. That has nothing to do with ego and everything to do with working with a process that works well for me.
Organization of Ideas As I Write
Brian asked if I think as I write or have the whole work in my head before I start writing.
Often times an article begins with a single thought. I will see something while out walking, or I will hear someone say something, and that becomes the genesis for an article. I will go home and write down a working title based on what I saw or heard.
I was listening to a baseball game on the radio the other day, and the announcer said something about a high and tight pitch, and that reminded me of my high school days when I would regularly brush back a batter with a fastball up around their eyes just to get their attention, and that in turn led to an article about using the tools that we have to accomplish the things that we want. In that case I knew exactly what I wanted to say in the article.
In other instances, I will sit down and look at the working title and the article, and I will write an introduction. By the time I am done with the introduction I know where I am going with the article. It is a subconscious process that has developed over time.
If I were to make one point about this process that I think is important it would be that writers need to trust in their abilities, and they also need to trust in the process. Allow your imaginations to run at times unfettered, and trust that you will get exactly where you were meant to go once it is all over.
I just love this video and you will too
And yes, Brian, ideas just come to me out of the blue. I can’t shut them off. Bev looked at me the other day while we were walking and she said I had that look on my face that signals that I’m thinking of a future article, and she was right. I had just seen a mother pushing her child in a stroller and an idea came to me.
Writers have to be open to ideas. As I have developed as a writer over time I find that my subconscious is much more receptive to inspiration than it was when I was much younger. I think like a writer. I feel like a writer. My five senses seem to always be on alert just waiting for the next idea, and once that idea appears I gobble it up as a starving man would gobble a Big Mac.
Having said that, I must also mention that at sixty-four I now have a rather faulty memory, so I carry a small notebook with me to capture the new ideas when they come to me. I jot the idea down when it arrives and then smile with satisfaction that I have once again won a small battle against the aging process.
And now is the time when I’m going to toss out some suggestions that might help you find inspiration. I’m going to just list these ideas and you can do with them as you will. Keep what you need and leave the rest for the next visitor.
- Turn on a radio station that you have never listened to before and give them ten minutes to inspire you
- Meet a friend for coffee and just chat about life
- Make a new recipe for dinner of a dish you have never tried before
- Go for a walk in the woods and imitate Thoreau
- Go for a walk downtown and people-watch
- Do something risky with your writing; in other words, boldly go where you have never gone before
- Go to a writing retreat or conference
- Visit a new blog once a week and absorb the different writing styles
- Try a new experience once each month
- Write about something you know nothing about
- Lay in the grass and watch the clouds go by
- Splash in a mud puddle and giggle like a little kid
- Spend time with some little kids
- Find a pen pal and learn about another culture
That’s enough for now. I’m overflowing with inspiration and I need a break before my head explodes.
THANK YOU BRIAN, and thanks to all of you for roaming around inside my head. I hope you found something useful in there. Now, where the heck did my personal assistant go off to? J
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”