Saturday, February 18, 2012

About Writing

Atlantic view in Bahia, Brazil
“I hate writing, I love having written.  Dorothy Parker

This morning, as I sat down to write, I had a number of thoughts, but wasn't sensing a common theme. I  flipped through a few blogs I hadn't yet read from earlier in the week, seeking inspiration for a blog post of my own.

I came across a post by Tim Ferriss, whose content is normally full of pop and often interesting. His timing is uncanny, too. This particular post was centered on an interview with Paulo Coelho, Brazilian author of one of my favorite books, The Alchemist, among several other big sellers. The interview topic: How I write.

How people write is fascinating to me, and there are a variety of methods. The prolific novelist, John Irving, for example, is rigorous in his process of writing. It involves grinding sessions of up to nine hours per day, seven days per week. Coelho's process is seemingly more relaxed but no less complicated.

The idea of channeling thoughts onto paper is described well in this TED Talk, A new way to think about creativity, by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, which I never read. If you don’t want to watch all of the video, scroll to 10:00, when she speaks about the poet Ruth Stone and her feeling of a poem coming on, at which time she would rush to find a piece of paper and pencil so she could write it down.

The idea of writing over a scenic view is romantic, but it's the less glamorous in life that drives me to write: it's the observation of everyday life. It's the timely capture of thought. It's the discipline of a supporting process.

I’m a mere part-time writer, a weekend blogger. I don’t devote enough time to the craft for it to matter, but do find real satisfaction in keeping it up. In this, my fourth year of blogging (and post number 49), it hasn't gotten any easiernor is any less effort requiredto publish meaningfully.

My posts are usually part of an exhausting process, made up of many thoughts coming together into a single, coherent stream of words. On the whole, the process is cathartic, a form of stress relief, ending with a sense of accomplishment and a clear mind. The complete exercise ends up being beneficial to my mental health.

When I sit to write, I typically have a few thoughts in mind. Maybe I've scribbled them on pieces of paper during the week. It never seems to matter, though, what I accumulate in terms of notes. For this post in particular, I had 15 to 20 “ideas” scribbled, but none of them made the cut, hence my reason for poking around on the net for inspiration.

As a rule of thumb, I don’t write about my job. Blogging for me is as much about clearing my head and de-stressing from work as it is about personal fulfillment.

Like Coelho, I first procrastinate, seeking inspiration through a variety of websites, videos, etc., before getting down to businessand then I don't get up until I'm comfortable with where my post is headed.

Once I feel like my content is in a decent state and have shaped a body, I pass it to Emily, and she provides a few directional suggestions and an edit or two. From that point, it's hopefully a matter of tightening screws. I may break for a while, going for a workout or running an errand, and come back later for another series of edits. Then, voilà, I let it rip.

From beginning to end, one post takes me four to six hours. While the entire process can be excruciating, the result is worth it: a living, breathing repository of writing in digital form.

Without question, I like writing most when I’m done. Clicking “Publish,” and finally putting words online, is akin to finishing a long run or workout. I hope the reading involved is not such a process.