A friend recently asked me, “What does your writing process look like?”
We were sitting in a crowded coffee shop and over the hum of voices I said, “It’s messy and rewarding. Sometimes the process makes me want to pull my hair out. The way I process information isn’t linear, yet the end result of an essay or chapter must be linear if you want readers to understand where you’re coming from. Otherwise the outcome isn’t clear. When I write, I tend to jump from subject to subject, or from chapter to chapter. Bits and pieces come out at a time and that can either be a good thing or very frustrating.”
All week I’ve been gripping my thoughts and trying to force the writing process and that never works. For example, I was trying to write an essay about our tiny house yesterday and it wasn’t working. I was over-thinking the piece and when I read it aloud it sounded horrible. I was trying to control the flow of my words and once I start sliding down that path, things go very badly and I end up with a puddle of tears in my journal. In short, radio station KFKD was turned up too loudly.
When that happens, I turn to a few writing tools.
- My journal. When I start feeling stuck, I write in my journal. The goal isn’t complex, I just try to get the words out and onto the paper.
Moleskin was my journal of choice for years, but now I’m trying out new models. Over the last few months, I’ve used Writer’s Bloc and now I’m writing in a journal from Piccadilly. My journals can’t be too nice, otherwise I don’t use them for writing because I’m scared of “ruining them.”
- Scrivener. I recently purchased this program and I’m already in love with it. They have free trial period, so be sure to give it a go. If Scrivener isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other writing tools out there. In addition to Scrivener, I’ve used the OmmWriter, 750words, and a basic text edit program.
- Books. I’m an avid reader and there area a few writing books that I keep coming back to including: Bird by Bird and How to Make a Journal of Your Life. Yesterday, I stopped by the library and picked up Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I’m only a few chapters into the book and it’s fantastic. I might buy this one and keep it on my tiny book shelf.
So far Goldberg has talked about writing as practice, kind of like meditation, and the importance of a beginner’s mind. She notes, “In a sense, that beginner’s mind is what we must come back to every time we sit down and write. There is no security, no assurance that because we wrote something good two months ago, we will do it again.”
Her words are affirming and that’s why I read all the time. Books give me ideas and help clear out the cobwebs in my head.
What does your writing process look like? Do you have writing tools you’d add to the list?