The writing process is something means something different to everybody. Some people believe it’s about how the ideas become words on the page. Some people is about the atmosphere they create around their physical space. One thing is for sure, your process will be different than mine, which will be different from someone else’s.
For big picture purposes let’s call the writing process the process in which we get from story idea to finished product. Using this definition we can speak on common terms and you and I can get more familiar with how we work and, hopefully, learn from one another.
Writing for me is painful. Partially because I have to make choices about when and how I write. I work full time teaching music at a rural high school. It takes me time to commute out there and back, the hours are long but mostly predictable so I can schedule time for writing.
I choose to write in the morning for the most part. My wife and son are usually still asleep when I get up so I schedule extra time before work to get words down the page, then follow up the rest of the afternoon feeling accomplished and anything else I get done towards my goals is just gravy. I feel fresh in the morning, addled by sleep enough to not be overly critical of my own work but ready to get words on a page and out into the world.
Some people feel the opposite, after a full days work the world is behind them and they can focus on their creation. I, on the other hand am too mentally exhausted to get anything done late in the day and choose to spend that time devoted to family and any other mindless tasks that need to be taken care of around the house.
This doesn’t mean I don’t write at night ever – some days you can’t keep me from the keyboard and my wife will give credence to that claim but having a set schedule that is specifically yours – your time to write – is the only way that I have found to keep myself accountable to myself and my audience.
For some people, part of their process is a word count goal. This is a strong indicator of how focused you were during your work period but can often be discouraging if your goal isn’t met by the end of the day. Many authors talk about writing 10k words every day and pumping out a book every month and while I find that admirable and worth trying to emulate, we’ve all got to begin in where we are. I give myself a time limit. I’ll work for an hour every morning guaranteed and anything above that is extra.
This brings me to a point that Scott Adams brings up in his book How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big.
Goals are for chumps. What any long-term minded individual needs is a process which is foolproof (because aren’t we all fools from time to time) that are aimed at goals. Once we reach a goal we’re often ready to cut ourselves a break, feeling accomplished we might cheat on our diet after losing those 20lbs. that we’ve been trying to cut. Just like that, you might hit your word goal and decide you’ve earned a treat, like a 5 hour video game binge (that’s my treat and not necessarily yours).
The point is, the process is your routine. It’s just part of the motions you go through every day in order to feel happy and healthy. My routine includes lots of things and writing is just one of them.
On a typical day I wake up at 5:30, make coffee and get to writing by 6. At 7 I scramble to get ready and head out the door and we record Writers of the Dawn. By 8 I’m in the classroom and I’m there till 4 or 5pm. On the way home I’ll stop at the gym for an hour and get my exercise.
Exercise is the number one way to increase productivity and keep yourself alert, active, and healthy and I suggest if it’s not already work it into your daily routine. Studies show that students who exercise daily have more active, alert brains that are able to give more focus to creative tasks than students who do not have a regular exercise routine.
To hear more about the writing process from myself and David V. Stewart have a listen to the first episode of our podcast:
When I get home for the night, around 6pm, I’ve achieved a day full of productivity and I feel happy and healthy, ready to spend my night devoted to my family. This is the most important thing to me. My family is my highest priority – everything I do is ultimately to spend more time with them and provide for them. It seems odd to trade time in the present for future time with them but ultimately that is what we do – trade time for resources. The best we can do is find a way to make passive income that will allow us to give our time more freely to the people we love the most.
My process has brought to you my debut Novella, Cloaked in Darkness. I’m sure if you enjoy my perspective, you’d enjoy giving it a read through.