The writing process is a mythical one. It’s a lot of emotional drudgery painstakingly scrawled on Post-Its purloined from former employers on my way out. It’s a lot half-full cups of cold coffee sloshing over the rim of the mug as I attack my keyboard with the fervor of 1000 feral cats. It’s a lot of hours spent on Twitter when I feel I deserve a break that inevitably morphed into a full-on procrastination sesh.
And yeah. I guess my writing process is also about writing? Sometimes.
With the annual OWFI conference taking place in OKC this weekend, I thought I’d outline my writing process for your enjoyment.
If you’re like me, then you have that restless spring time antsy-ness and you want to dive into a project like Scrooge McDuck dives into his vault. But, again, if you’re like me, your writing process (particularly during spring time antsy-ness) won’t allow it.
You, my friend, are not alone. (If you’ve figured out how to master this weirdness and actually be productive, then I want you to know that you’re not my friend. you’re a mortal enemy and I will light your socks on fire.)The 10 Stages of My Writing Process Click To Tweet
Anyway, without further ado, here are the 10 stages of my writing process.
001: Manic Ideation
During this phase, ALL MY IDEAS ARE MADE OF GOLD. Generally, this is when I’m scrawling like mad in a notebook, and my pen doesn’t leave the paper — that’s how manic it is. And, after I’ve filled 30 pages with these GOLDEN IDEAS, I start to think that not only am I the greatest and best writer in the world, but that I’m well on my way to the Nobel in Literature.
002: Diligent Procrastination
Generally speaking, I really wear myself out in the manic ideation stage of the writing process. I’m mentally and emotionally spent afterward, and my pen is generally out of ink. when I’m diligently procrastinating, I like to take some time to refill the well, so to speak. So I read books and binge on Netflix, with the notion that I need to replenish my inspiration stores. However, once those stores are replenished, I tend to continue my diligent procrastination on Twitter and YouTube.
003: Furtive Research
The furtive research stage is all about getting down to business. I’m ready to work! Only, those solid gold ideas from stage 001? Yeah. Not really gold. More like gold-plated. Or like, probably aluminum-plated. Because in the sober light of day, NOTHING IS EVER GOOD AND I’M A FAILURE. So I do some research. And this research is like the undergirding for the haphazard railway structure some fly-by-night monorail salesman sold me. <Simpson’s Reference That References Music Man.jpg>
004: Quixotic Outlining
Outlining is inherently quixotic because it’s when you take all those scrawled nonsense bits you thought were gold, and mix them with your research to DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM. What’s that dream? For me, it’s a novel. For you, it might be a new type of chip dip that uses Dippin’ Dots technology. (LIVE YOUR DREAM AND IF THAT’S DIPPIN’ DOTS-STYLE DIP FOR YOUR CHIPS, THEN LIVE YOU MAGICAL FIEND, LIVE.) The outlining stage is full of hope and wonder and I can conquer the world, or you know, just complete a hella big-ass project. And it’s quixotic because just like Don Quixote, you don’t see what’s really there. Like, I don’t see all the plot holes — I just see possibilities. The outline is where you tilt at them windmills, y’all.
005: Vehement Denial
This is the part where I remind myself I’m not a writer. That master’s degree was a big ol’ lie, and my brain is actually full of instant mashed potatoes. (If you’ve read this post, then you know this is where I live.) In this stage, I realize fully that I’m Alonso Quijano, and my Rocinante of a novel idea is a terrible old horse. (One that probably kicks kids right in the teeth.)
(I’m from Oklahoma. I know an absurd amount of people who had their teeth kicked out by horses as children.)
006: Smooth Starting
Denial be damned! I get started with my novelin’. And the first scene is always so easy to write. I open a blank document and go to town. And before I know it, I have something that may, at some point, be a viable chapter. It feels really good and like maybe I’m not a failure at the only dream I’ve ever had! If only every stage could be like this…
007: Emotional Breakdown
BUT THE START IS THE ONLY SMOOTH PART BECAUSE I NEED TO SPEND LIKE 40% OF MY WRITING PROCESS JUST STRAIGHT UP CRYING I GUESS. Honestly, I’m not sure why I do this, but I’m also pretty sure that like, all writers do this? Maybe all artists do this. When you put so much time and energy into something that will never match the vision you have in your head, you’re really just setting yourself up for big ol’ crying jags.
This is where I curse everyone I’ve ever known. My writing is coming for you, and you deserve it because you may have wronged me at some time and you deserve to be taken out and metaphorically stoned in the streets. BY MY WORDS!
009: Existential Contemplation
This is the point where I acknowledge that choosing the life of a writer means I need therapy. Also, can I continue to live my life like this? DO I EVEN WANT TO? UGH WHY DOES IT EVEN MATTER IF I DO ANYTHING I’M A BODY WITHOUT ORGANS AND WHO CARES ABOUT THE SIGNS I CREATE AND WHAT I SAY THEY SIGNIFY. (Note: This isn’t so much a part of the writing process as it is a part of my everyday life.)
010: Just Writing.
So, I finally get to the stage where I do what I should’ve been doing the whole damn time. But that’s the thing about the writing process. It’s not so much about writing most of the time.
What about you? What’s your writing process? How many stages do you have? Do any of your stages just involve you crying for no good reason?