This should be obvious, but in order to be a writer you have to write.
Thinking about writing ideas is important, but it isn’t writing. Unless you’ve got a new-fangled standing writing station, writing means putting yourself in a seat and putting the words down.
For me, the writing process involves two kinds of writing space.
1. Mental space
2. Literal, physical space
The ten minute layovers—standing in line at the grocery store, waiting in the car line to pick up kids—are good times to noodle with ideas. If I forget my pocket notebook, I often come home with pockets full of scribbles on paper scraps. However, when I’ve finished noodling the ideas around and I finally want to put the words in order, my writing process works best if I can tune everyone and everything else out. Forgive me for sounding like Greta Garbo but—I want to be alone!
I have always been fascinated by other writers’ routines. The Brain Pickings website has a great compilation. Personally, I find Ray Bradbury’s approach works the best. My writing should pull me to the desk. If it doesn’t, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write though. That just means something’s wrong with what I’m working on. Either I need to try a new angle or ax the project altogether and move on to something else. If I’m not feeling passionate about a story, how could I expect a reader to be?
The worst moments for me are when I literally have the time, but my head’s not in it. Sitting and staring at a blank page isn’t productive. But I don’t usually have that problem. My problem is writing along merrily and then looking back and realizing that what I just spent time on is the embodiment of the reason that there is a delete button. I wasn’t in a creative state of mind and my work showed it. Cut. No paste.
At times like these, I remind myself—writing isn’t necessarily a linear process. I’m reminded of something the pediatrician told me when I was worried that our kids weren’t eating balanced meals. “Look at a week,” he said. Applying this to my writing has freed me from the disappointment of individual bad writing days. As long as it’s occasionally two steps forward, the step back now and then is just part of the dance.
Now it’s off to dance with some of my favorite characters! We haven't reached the final frontier. (Something you should know about me, I love bad puns.)
And where do I write? That’s Part 2, this Friday.