In the interest of posting a blog now and again, I thought I'd offer up an old blog. (Sorry, I know it's kind of cheating.) This is a blog I'd written for The Writer's Vineyard a few years back about process. It's relevant, though, and serves as a reminder to me to go out and enjoy the New England fall weather while I can.
I’ve been trying to up my productivity. I’ve heard stories on line of writers who write five thousand words a day, who manage three books a year. And I’ve thought to myself, if they can do it so can I. I’ve been trying to measure my productivity with word count. I have little charts that tell me about progress. I have marks on my calendar.
The problem is that I don’t work best that way. My progress isn’t that straight forward. My process isn’t linear.
This is how it works for me: I have an idea. I write it down. I ruminate on the idea, letting it marinate in my brain juice for a week or two or ten. I take lots of walks and let my mind buzz around-- landing now and again on the story idea, flitting to other ideas-- like a bee pollinating a garden. After a week or two or ten, I pick up my pen and notebook. I write an inane and thoroughly awful first draft, sketching out the idea and giving it some substance. I cross out sentences. I change scenes around in time and space.
Then I sit down at the key board, waggle my fingers in a warm up exercise, and begin to type. I slow down my quick moving thoughts. I take time with my metaphors. I tighten the dialog. I enhance the scenery. Then I take another walk. I return to the keyboard. I cross out sentences. I rewrite dialog strings. I read scenes aloud to see how they sound. If I’ve done my job, the metaphors are fresh, the words sing, and the characters walk onto the scene like flesh and blood people. This is my aim, though I always and inevitably fall short of the mark.
I go for another walk. I look at the manuscript again. I pick up my pen. I go to the keyboard. I repeat the process until I’ve taken it as far as I possibly can before passing it along.
This process, my process, can’t be measured in time and word count. It takes breathing room. And, in trying to condense it and make it run in neat straight lines, I’ve gotten lost. I’ve stopped breathing.
I need to go back to basics. I need to stop worrying about how much I can write in a day or a week or a year. I think I should go for a walk.