Writers are unique individuals. Our brains don’t think the way those of normal folk do. We’re inspired by the simplest of things sometimes, and our inspiration is like a newborn baby — ready to put us to work at any given minute.
A few friends have asked me what my writing process is like, and I’ve gotten some pieces of fan mail asking the same thing. Since, personally, the writing processes of other people fascinate me, I figured that I would give you a look inside mine:
All you need is tea
I can’t write a word without a cup of tea to start my day. Even if I’m starting to write more in the afternoons or evenings, I usually need a warm cup of tea right next to me. I’m not a coffee drinker (I was about 4-foot-10 as a high school freshman and feared my growth being stunted in any way), so tea does the trick.
Silence is golden, but not realistic
I can’t listen to music when I’m writing; I just can’t. I listen to it while thinking of story ideas or trying to break writer’s block (see below), and I can deal with background music if I’m writing outside of my home, but if I’m trying to transform my thoughts into words, I can’t have any form of headphones in.
Ironically, I can write in loud or stressful situations (I’m a high school reporter, so most of my stories are filed from bleachers or a local McDonald’s), but something about having headphones in is a massive distraction.
E.B. White once said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper,” and it is so damn true. Get comfortable, but your surroundings will almost never be perfect.
Some of the best writing I achieve is usually done at a Starbucks or, for whatever reason, the Westchester County Center, when there’s blaring music playing or a basketball game being played. I like the quiet, as I’m sure many writers do, but you will almost never have complete silence.
A nod to ‘A Few Good Men’
Fun fact about me: ‘A Few Good Men’ is my favorite movie of all-time.
There’s a scene where Tom Cruise asks Demi Moore where his baseball bat is because he “thinks better” with it. Some time ago (I don’t exactly remember when), I picked up a bat once while walking around my apartment and it actually helped me relax and unclog my brain.
Now, whenever I’m struggling with writer’s block or if a piece isn’t coming together exactly as I envisioned it, I grab my bat and walk around my apartment. When I’ve got something good, I put the bat down and write.
You can’t force what’s not there
I’m paid to be a sports reporter. I write for Thought Catalog out of passion. I like that I can write about pretty much whatever I want, with no real limitations (censorship, inch count, etc.).
Because I’m not paid to write here, maybe my stance is different than others, but I don’t like forcing material that just isn’t there. Sometimes I have a great idea and I know what I want to write, but the words just aren’t coming out or flowing the way I thought they would. In those cases, I don’t write.
I don’t have daily goals for word count or articles finished. I don’t like quotas; I feel like they stifle creativity. They force you to put something out there just to fill a space.
I believe in quality over quantity. I’d rather write two or three solid pieces a week, rather than submit six or seven a week, with most of them being absolute dreck. Some days I’ll write four or five solid pieces in a day; others I can’t muster 100 quality words.
My advice: Write when you can, not when you feel you have to.
Paralysis by over-analysis
Like every writer, I go through spurts of writer’s block. In those times, it’s frustrating, but I try to surrender to it; embracing it, if you will.
Sometimes I’ll just completely turn off the idea of writing. I’ll run errands, throw something on Netflix, do work stuff for the paper; anything but writing. In my experience, the break in writer’s block hits me like a smack in the face. Things just start to click. If I’m free or by a computer, I write; If I’m at work or otherwise preoccupied, I’ll write down whatever the idea is and a sentence or two to help jog my memory for later.
To me, you have to approach writing like sex: It’s supposed to be enjoyable, not stressful. If you’re trying too hard, everything will turn out awful and your partner (the reader) won’t be satisfied.
Relax. Let the flow come to you. When you find your rhythm, go and do your thing. When you’re in a zone, everything works and everything flows. When you’re able to perform stress-free, everyone is happy.