My Process Or: Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

My process is infuriating to me. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Bear with me, and you’ll find out what I mean.

I wish I could write a thousand words a day. I wish I could write every single day besides Christmas (I really do try to), as I’ve heard the great master Stephen King does. I bow to you through this new medium, sir.

My process is different. It’s slow and it’s technical and it’s (hopefully) precise. My palsy means I can’t type all that fast, although I’ve gotten faster over the years. If you told my sixth-grade self I’d ever be typing at this speed, he would have laughed. Then he probably would have cried because he’d be so happy I overcame the daunting computer and my former failed attempts to hunt-and-peck its keyboard.  My eyes make it so that I can’t read all that fast, either. A teacher once told me, “You read at the speed of a second-grader.”

I am grateful, to this day, that she did so in private.

I replied, “I sure hope I retain knowledge at a better rate than I read.” And I smiled, but I wanted to let the tears go right there.

Gotta love sarcasm, right? Humor has always saved me. It’s saved me from the palsy, from the pain of rejection, and, yes, at times it’s saved me from my own process.

Work it through, I have to remind myself now and then. You’re a writer. And it’s not a race.

Some of my friends have written multiple books. (Just look at that sentence! I have friends–real, true friends–who have written multiple books and who, in spite of my tedious process, think I’m pretty darn good at this thing.).

But here’s what gets to me sometimes, if I let it. Some of them also have books in a drawer. Unpublished books–manuscripts they can show an agent or a publisher as a way of demonstrating, “Here’s what’s coming next.”

I’ve got my novel, painstakingly written through an unpredictable ocean of deep, waving emotion. And other stories. Many that will serve as the basis for their own books in the years to come. But right now I’m focused on this one true and heartfelt piece.

“You could write anything,” my sister once said. I love her for saying it.

But the truth is that if I’m gonna write a story, if I’m gonna invest the time and the effort, if I’m gonna place emotion behind every word, and if that emotion is going to be properly communicated, I can’t write just anything. The story has to be one I cam feel. One I can make others feel. That is part of my process, too.

My process:

Start a story. See where it’s headed. Write the skeleton of what will eventually be the work. Doesn’t matter if it’s a page or two or three. This is not the outline. This is what I hope to communicate, boiled down. Then go back in and see if you can see the scenes.  This will change the work so far written a great deal. Deepen it scene-by-scene. Then ask yourself, Is this a story you can tell with feeling? If the answer is yes, go from there. Repeat process until every scene has been imbued with the truth you always intended. And make sure that the answer to the feeling question is always yes.

That is my process. It isn’t quick.

It’s infuriating.

But, to me, it’s real and it’s true, and I am proud of what it’s helped me to create.

No matter where you go, no matter what you do, dear reader, never let anyone hijack your process. It is a significant part of what makes your art yours and not theirs.

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