How do YOU write?

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Every writer has a technique.  If they don’t, should they?

I am posing a few questions here that have been on my mind lately regarding the subject. My thoughts on each follow, but really, I would like to know what other writers – both established and aspiring – have to say.

Question 1:

Modus operandi – write every day or when the moment is right?

A lot of the material I have read on what makes a good writer seems to suggest that you must write every day.

I have a problem with this because of two reasons:

  1. My journey with writing – both the long term one as well as the every day one – has been and is fraught with interruptions – mainly other commitments and responsibilities I have that I also take very seriously. Writing every day is not a practical goal for me.
  2. I find that my best writing takes place when the ‘moment is right’. When I am either suddenly inspired or feeling really depressed or feeling really confident – essentially, when I am experiencing a strong emotion that allows me to get into my ‘writing zone’. My ‘writing zone’ is a state of mind that feels like a natural high. In such moments the thoughts effortlessly flow from my mind onto the paper (or keyboard as the case may be). I become like a horse with blinkers, able to see my goal with tunnel vision. Everything around me just fades into the background and my thoughts are expressed on paper exactly the way I feel them in my mind. Appropriate words, clever metaphors and watertight sentences magically seem find their way into paragraphs I am delighted to say I wrote.

But sadly, this doesn’t happen every day. When my mind isn’t ‘cluttered’ with other undertakings and is free to view things from the perspective I have just described, then there is a chance that it might happen. Oh, how I treasure those moments!

On a side note, a lot of my moments of clarity regarding what I want to write about and the best way to write it appear when I am taking a shower! The realisation of this fact was a bit unsettling for me, but after I stumbled across a post by a fellow blogger who writes very well, I am relieved. It would appear I am in good company!

It has been about two months since I have started writing again after a long break and also since I’ve started this blog. I’m finding that my answer to Question 1 lies somewhere in the middle. I may not write every day, but I am definitely writing more often and I think it IS helping me become a better writer. The practice is slowly training my mind to get in tune with the outcome I desire – to get close to the goal of putting into words EXACTLY what is on my mind and to get into my ‘writing zone’ more often.

I think my method for the time being is to:

–       Write as often as possible – for practice.

–       Write for sure (or try as far as possible to push everything else aside and write) when I am having a ‘right for writing’ moment, for there is no greater high than writing when lucidity strikes.

What is your modus operandi when it comes to writing? What works for you?

Question 2:

What to write – fiction or non-fiction?

I guess this is either a personal preference or depends on what you are good at, but I’d like to share my experience with both.

While I have written some fiction in the past, till now my blog has only contained my non-fiction writing – my thoughts and feelings on experiences, relationships and life in general. I imagined that would be easier to write about. You experience something, you write it down – simple. Well, not so in my case. Writing non-fiction seems to be more difficult for me. For some reason when I add the element of fiction, even if it stems from something I have experienced, I find I am able to express myself more accurately.

I’ve asked myself why this is. Do I feel safer or less vulnerable when I put my thoughts out there via ‘someone else’? Perhaps I imagine I won’t be judged or ridiculed. “It’s just fiction. It’s not ‘me’ saying it.”

Or is it that with fiction I am able to add any amount of ‘drama’ to what I have to say, allowing my writing the opportunity to become more powerful or intelligent?

Do you write fiction or non-fiction or both? Which do you prefer? Which do you find easier and why?

Question 3:

Where to begin – with a story or with a thought?

In other words, do you have definite thoughts that become what you write about or a basic, but sometimes vague thought that you explore through your writing, the outcome of which becomes apparent only once you’re done writing a piece?

Does your writing help you explore thoughts or is it a way to share, narrate or document what you already know?

For me sometimes it’s this and sometimes it’s that, but I think it is important for me to recognise when it is which. It is important that I know what I’m doing when I write a piece. I think I would lose myself otherwise. This post for example, stemmed from a thought that I am exploring as I write. My post Inadvertent Life Lessons From My Son’s First Year however was all thought out in my head before I put it down on paper.

There are of course a hundred questions one could ask on the subject of writing technique, but for now I am limiting myself to exploring just these three.

Examination of my own writing has made me realise that I do not have a clearly defined technique. It seems to be more of an adaptable one.

Should I be worried? Could I be a better writer if I had a stricter, more defined method?

Or when it comes to writing technique, is it simply a case of different strokes for different folks?

Thank you for reading and do let me know what you think.

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7 thoughts on “How do YOU write?

  1. Thanks for the compliment… although I wasn’t expecting company in the shower.

    As for the rest of your post, I do have a few thoughts. First off, I only look like I write one post every day. In reality, I write (sometimes multiple posts) when they come to me and save the drafts. And then I revise one post from the draft pool every day and publish it. (The exception is the weekly photo challenges, which I crank out as soon as possible after the topic is announced.)

    And as for what I start with, I start with what I start with and go from there; whatever works will work. That’s how I end up with serious posts on what was supposed to be a humor blog; I may open with a thought or story that was supposed to be funny but sometimes the best way to flesh out my idea isn’t with humor. If I applied a more defined humor-writing method to my work, I’d end up with posts that aren’t funny because the jokes are bad instead of posts that aren’t funny because they’re better that way. In other words, don’t be too strict with your method; one size does not fit all occasions.

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  2. There’s a lot here that resonates with me, and I want to write a fuller comment but unfortunately don’t have time at the moment. I will be back to re-read this post, consider your points again and answer your questions. Thanks for dropping by my blog and leaving me this link, I enjoyed reading it and I think you write very well. – Lorna

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  3. I’m back and have re-read your post. A lot of it speaks for the way I feel, or have felt, about writing and the expectations I’ve had for myself based on what other writers seem to do. I completely agree with you on your first point about writing for practice as often as you can. Not everyone can write every day, or if they do they might write rubbish 5 days out of 7 and only produce something worthwhile on the other 2 days. However, I think the more you write, the fewer days of rubbish you’re likely to produce. I’m sure even the most successful writers have days when they write drivel, but it’s probably better drivel than it might be because all the practice they’ve put in. Writing is like anything else, the more you do it the better you get at it, but you should do it at your own pace, in a way that works for you.

    I was very interested in your second question about fiction versus non-fiction. I used to think I couldn’t write fiction, despite having done plenty of creative writing as a child. I tried writing fiction in my early 20s but the story seemed cumbersome and plodding and my writing was, quite frankly, cringeworthy. For many years after that I stuck to non-fiction and it was only last year that I took up fiction again, very tentatively. I do enjoy it but find it hard going, sometimes it flows but I still doubt my ability to do it. One thing that I think has helped is reading a lot of other people’s fiction and being aware of how stories are constructed, rather than just being carried along by the story. It’s quite an art to be able to write a novel that a reader will devour quickly because it flows so well, and it’s not until you try to do it yourself that you realise the skill involved. For me, non-fiction is still easier to write, but I think that’s largely because I’ve spent more time on it. With fiction I need more practice and I need to persevere even when I feel my writing is laboured and imperfect because that’s the only way I’m going to improve. I did in fact finish my first novel earlier this year and am now writing my second. It’s only now that I realise the first one may not be publishable and I might have to treat it as an exercise in writing rather than as something to be published. That’s a bit heartbreaking after all the work I put in, but it was very useful practice, if nothing else.

    As for your third point, reading your post has made me realise something I hadn’t considered properly before. One of the reasons I think my non-fiction is better than my fiction is because I usually have a clearer idea of where I’m going with it. I don’t always know how it will turn out, in fact I rarely do, but I have what feels like a germ of a good idea, whereas in fiction my thoughts are much more vague and woolly. I think finding a technique that works for you is a long process and probably arises from trial and error as much as anything else.

    I enjoyed reading this post and thinking about the topics you raised, thank you. Like you, I rely on my shower time for good ideas. My most creative times are usually showers and walks, and time spent doing one or the other are often very productive.

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    • Thank you for returning and sharing your thoughts. I love to hear what other writers have to say about their writing process, so I really appreciate this. Congratulations on completing your first novel! Publishable or not, it is an achievement you should be proud of. And all the very best with the second one. I am still in the process – about half way though – of completing my collection of short stories….though I seem to be taking forever to do so!

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