I’ve previously written about my writing process (while I was doing my PhD) here. A lot has changed since that post three years ago. I completed my PhD and yet I find myself writing a lot more and writing different types of things. I’ve been paying attention to how I write, those of you who know me know that this stems from my keen interest in processes. Regardless of what I’m writing I found that there is a fairly systematic approach, though at the time of writing it doesn’t often feel systematic!
Here’s what my process looks like:
The space: Spaces are really important to me and I do the bulk of my writing at this beautiful desk we purchased at the beginning of 2014. We forked out quite a lot of money for it but just looking at it makes me happy. And when we build our forever home I know I could continue using it as my desk, or it would look beautiful in the entry way. This year I’ve made it more of a point to keep surfaces clear and I’m finding that it really encourages creativity and writing, for me.
The instruments: My writing tools are very important to me. If I’m typing that’s fine but if I’m handwriting I need it to be in my designated Moleskin notebooks and with my preferred pens. I used the Artline 200 Fine 0.4 pen for everything and recently started using the Artline Calligraphy Pen 2.0 for cards, labels and envelopes. I struggle to get my writing done if I’m not using these – and it’s okay. It’s part of my process.
An idea: I always work for an idea, even in my work-related writing. I’ll keep the images, words, sentence, phrase whatever the idea was in front of me as I write. This helps me stay focused and not go off on a tangent.
Structure: In my previous post I mentioned how I often write from the middle (with blog posts, reports etc done electronically). That’s changed slightly now. I try to write from the beginning but don’t stop writing if I get stuck. I’ll move to the next section or paragraph and come back to the bit that was giving me trouble later. I try not to schedule any writing time until I’ve brainstormed ideas and have some direction.
Scheduling writing time: I don’t leave this to chance. I try to block off two hour blocks to write. And I’m quite disciplined in how I use this time. I don’t use my writing time to look for images for the words. I don’t look for references or create links. This isn’t the time to brainstorm ideas either. If I don’t have a clear idea I’ll go back to the drawing board. This is time for dedicated writing. If it’s a day that I’m struggling to focus I break the two hours into four writing blocks with short breaks in between. The point is to get the words and thoughts down. I don’t proofread or edit at this stage either.
Proof reading: I don’t proof read until the next day or hours after I’ve stopped writing, just to create a little distance between myself and the piece. I also look at what I’ve written in relation to what I had set out to write, my idea or intention, or argument.
If you’re struggling to write perhaps understanding my process might help you clarify yours or may provide you with some tips as you how you could re-think your process if you feel it’s not working for you. The way I write has mostly remained the same because I find what I do works for me. You just need to find what works for you, and sometimes that can take a lot of trial and error. One of the main differences between my old writing process and my process now is that I don’t let my workspace get cluttered!
So, what’s your writing process like? Do you prefer a clean surface when you write or do you embrace the chaos?