For me, the hardest part of writing is getting my butt in the chair. Once I’m there, and I begin, everything flows.
When I’m wrapped up in a story and a character, I’m unable to turn it off, even when I leave said chair. Images and dialogue (mostly dialogue) filter through my mind, and if I’m not at my desk or near it, I have to put these fragments down. Otherwise, they fade away, like a dissipating puff of smoke.
Before iPhones, I collected the pieces of stories that landed in my brain like jigsaw puzzle pieces on napkins, old envelopes, concert program notes… Anything that was handy. This was especially true when my kids were little and writing time was a premium. I also carried a small hand-held tape recorder with me everywhere I went.
Now I use Notes and Voice Memos in my iPhone, but I still do a fair amount of scribbling on random remnants of paper and other things when I don’t feel like thumb typing. Then, eventually, I organize them in a digital file and keep it on Google Drive (along with the piece I’m working on) so I can access it wherever I am and no matter which device I’m using.
For me, it’s typical for this stage of jotting down random snippets to continue throughout the writing of an entire piece. Once the substantial writing begins, another process takes hold in which I do a fair amount of moving forward, then backtracking, adjusting so that what I’ve set up in the past makes sense for what I’m setting up now.
She also says she uses “a sharp object with a pointy end” (pen or pencil) and whatever flat surface is nearby when the beginning of a new novel comes. As she progresses, she uses sticky notes and a bedside notebook.
Knowing your process is crucial to your production. If you know your process, the writing will come more easily, and you won’t find yourself staring down the snout of the mythical monster called writer’s block.
As Atwood says, “If you’re not finding this happen somewhat spontaneously, you probably shouldn’t be doing this activity.”
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I do a different kind of writing at the keyboard than I do by hand, and both approaches served different functions.
initial random snippets
mind dumping big thoughts so I can organize
writing the story
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Do you start with pen/pencil and paper or with the keyboard? Do you know why?
If it works and you don’t find yourself sitting, stuck, that’s great!
If you do find yourself stuck, try changing up the way you work.
“I just have to plunge into it.” – Margaret Atwood