The writing process: a how-to inside a narrative experience

This article is for anyone who has ever been convinced that there is a right and wrong technical way to write, that there may somehow exist a scientific method to writing. I do not agree with that. Writing looks different for everyone, and I think that idiosyncratic writing processes should be wholeheartedly embraced. 

My relationship with writing has been nothing short of eventful and complicated. My current standing with my writing process is a mutual understanding of sorts. It is almost nostalgic for me to look back and see when I started this long journey into forging a path to making writing a focus for my career. 

I used to not enjoy writing; in middle school, we had a specific writing process, as I am assuming others might have had, as well. Rough draft, revision, editing, peer revision, peer editing and a final draft. At the ripe age of 12, I can assure anyone reading this that I did not enjoy the process, which is not to say that I did not like writing. Even then, I was taken aback by the sense of fulfillment and joy I got by filling a page with my writing. It was the seemingly huge process of revisions and peer edits ahead of me that I despised to the point of waiting until the last minute to write a final draft. 

My first endeavor toward a journalistic piece was in eighth grade when I was assigned to write about any topic I wanted to, the caveat being it had to be an article. I can never forget asking my mom what I should write about, tired from thinking and brainstorming all day at school through every single class. Her words have stuck with me to this day, to every moment I have ever needed the inspiration to escape writer’s block. 

“Well, what do you like?” she asked. 

I jokingly replied, “Sleep.”

That week, I wrote an article about how students in middle and high school required more sleep to benefit their overall health, with significant improvements in test scores and personal well-being suggested within the scientific research I used. I gave it to another teacher to look at for revising. I still remember the single flow of ink on the second paragraph that said,“Just one comma splice here.” (For those curious, I got a 98 on the article and a newfound interest in what else I could write journalistically.) 

While academic writing and I failed to agree with one another throughout high school, I longed to write freely and creatively about something I cared about. Unfortunately, at the time, there were not many options at my school that suited me. 

Through taking choir, my teacher introduced the class to Eric Whitacre, an incredible composer who organized a virtual choir long before pandemic times. In an interview with him, he talked about his process of starting something new. One specific thing I have taken with me on my path thus far is his discussion of a “Golden Brick.”

“A note or two or chord that I can sense has an entire piece humming inside of it,” Whitacre said.“Then, there is this taking the golden brick and building an entire cathedral around it.”

I was sold. I did not, nor have I ever, written music, but this inspired me beyond bounds to find my golden brick. 

The truth is, I could not have successfully put this idea into motion without being introduced to “Eat, Pray, Love” author Liz Gilbert’s book about creative living titled “Big Magic.” I was given photocopied pages of the beginning of this book by my eleventh grade English teacher when I stopped by her office asking how to start writing creatively again, asking if academia was all that was available.

“Big Magic” is a book that will never leave my library because I believe that there is something to be learned with every page turn; why risk not having that information close by?

“Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form,” Liz Gilbert writes on pages 34 and 35. “They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us––albeit strangely…Therefore, ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners…When an idea thinks it has found somebody–say, you– who might be able to bring it into the world, the idea will pay you a visit. It will try to get your attention.” 

She later goes on to discuss how you can agree or disagree to a partnership with an idea; the choice is yours. But, if you agree to an idea with curiosity and respect, you can fulfill the idea with an endless amount of outcomes having creativity imprinted on your life. 

To this day, I feel Gilbert’s universal wind theory blowing around me –– I can feel it when an idea hits me, the isolated notion that an idea has found me instead of my genius going outward bound to find materials to start building. I feel Whitacre’s golden brick. I can feel the way a phrase buzzes around, begging to be married with other words. 

My inspiration is personified as a sort of pulling feeling, like a friend that is going to surprise you with something, but it’s the most inopportune time –– but what am I going to say, no?

After being hit with inspiration, I feel for a golden brick, a phrase or subject that I want to build a piece around. Before I do anything, my preferred method of brainstorming is using an inverted pyramid (an upside down triangle where the most important information goes as the top, to least important at the bottom point) to jot out my thoughts and how I would like the piece to be written. Then, I write with reckless abandon, typically within a few hours since my writing tends to be mainly journalistic. I may highlight parts I get stuck on or elect to step away from it to breathe a little before returning. 

For external influences, I typically listen to the same classical song on repeat, as I do not get invested in the lyrics or changes of songs. (Currently, I am listening to “Germination” by Ryuchi Sakamoto). I can work anywhere, as long as there is quiet. 

That being said, writing is a beautiful experience that can take on many different forms and appearances. If you are like me, maybe the whole coffee shop and people-watching ambiance does not help you in the slightest. Perhaps you like to be in the sunshine while you work, finding inspiration in our natural world.

Whatever writing looks like for you, I simply advise you to not fight it. Allow yourself to be taken into your work, willing and excited for what it might bring. 

 

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