Before we start today’s blog post, I’d just like to brag a little bit: I have a glass of wine that’s so full it’s approximately half of the bottle, and I also have some fresh gummy worms. Who says I don’t know how to get crazy on a Saturday night?
I bet you thought I was going to brag about some big writing or career accomplishment. That area of my life has actually been relatively quiet, but I am writing again after a summer plagued by writer’s block, which has lead to my writing this post about that weird thing called The Writing Process. Woo, sounds big and scary, doesn’t it? grammar.about.com (how did I not know this was a website before now?) defines the writing process as: The series of overlapping steps that most writers follow in composing texts.
In even more simplified terms, it’s how you write. See? It’s not so scary, and I’m willing to bet that if you’ve been writing or reading for any length of time, you’ve probably come across this term before. I’m also willing to bet that you’ve also come across the following advice about the writing process:
Write every day.
I come across this phrase daily when lurking through all the bookish and writerly pages I follow on facebook. They’re always posting articles along the lines of, “These famous writers wrote every day at three in the morning while wearing nothing but socks, and drinking soapy water, while whistling She’ll be coming ’round the mountain after sneezing three times in a row blah, blah, blah so you should do it too, or you’ll never be a successful writer!”
I hate that piece of crap advice.
I am an obsessive person. I know this about myself.
The way these obsessions work is by getting really excited about something, and for however long, I will eat, breathe, live, die for that obsession. But as soon as the time is up, it’s up for at least a few years. I’ve gone through obsessively drawing comic book characters, cyber-stalking members of Fall Out Boy (I was in middle school, shut up), piano, guitar, trombone, crochet, tatting, sewing, cosplaying and many other phases. My current obsession is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When I had 48 hours off work this week, I spent 30 of those hours binging. Thank you, Netflix.
The point isn’t my neurosis, the point is that for me, writing isn’t an obsession. With Fall Out Boy, I didn’t talk to them in my head for years after Pete Wentz married Ashley Simpson which ended that obsession, and if I’m honest, I’ll probably never draw or play the trombone again. I’m okay with that. But with writing, I know it’s not an obsession because even when I do binge write, I always come back a few months later. But those are still months of non-writing that could have been spent productively.
What I’m not okay with is forcing myself to write every day, getting myself into a writing frenzy, and not doing it for months when it ends because I’ve followed my obsessive pattern because some other writer wrote every day. This isn’t to say that I don’t force myself to write every now and then when I’m feeling stuck, but I will never make myself write every day because that will ruin it for me. I know myself well enough to know that I simply just don’t work that way, and that’s the point of all of this. Maybe writing every day is what works for you, maybe doesn’t. The point is, as the Greeks say, know thyself.
Your writing process needs to be structured around who you are, how you function. If you force yourself into a structure that worked great for Fitzgerald, but stifles your creative flow, then maybe it’s time to accept the fact that you’re not Fitzgerald. You’re you, and that’s a good thing, so do it your way.
The writing process isn’t easy, and sometimes it changes over time as you change and grow too. I used to not be able to write without music, now I can’t write with it or I end up writing the lyrics. I’m still trying to figure out my perfect writing process, but I know damn well that for me, it’s not doing it every day, no matter who tells me otherwise.