Sometimes I just don’t know what I’m going to write about. Take my last post, about my epic week. I had actually started out writing about my favourite tax saving strategies for older dads with no assets. Stimulating topic, and I’m sure it would have been a real banger. But that is definitely not what ended up on the final post! Such is my wacky writing process…
I like to write every day. I made a commitment to myself about 10 months ago that I would write a minimum of 500 words per day, every day. And, for the most part, I’ve stuck to that commitment.
Yes, there are days when I maybe sleep in a bit, and decide to do it that evening, then come home from a long day of yelling at stupid customers, and can’t get up the energy to connect enough brain cells to put together enough cohesive sentences. But those are pretty infrequent.
I used to write something called Morning Pages. Ever heard of it? It’s a wonderful exercise made famous by an author named Julia Cameron. She wrote a book called The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity. This is a link to buy the book on Amazon. I don’t receive anything in return, but I thought it might be of interest to some of you.
Morning Pages are “the bedrock of a creative life”. Her words, but I support that idea. The idea of morning pages is to start your day with three pages of “stream of consciousness” writing, a brain dump clearing out all the fluff. It’s three pages of unedited, unabashed scribbles coming straight from our brain and out through our pens all over the page. Three pages of dross, flotsam of the mind.
I don’t write morning pages anymore, but I certainly do write a lot of junk. And I’m perfectly okay with that. It really is a great way of dusting off the shelves of the mind, so you can put up the keepsakes of life.
My Wacky Writing Process, Explained
I’ve had a few people ask me, “How do you find the time to write as much as you do?” And, “What’s the best way to paint a garage floor?” Since this little website has nothing to do with painting, I’ll address the first question instead.
I do have a bit of a process for writing. No doubt there are writers just like me who, once they develop a bit of consistency, tend to stick to a process superstitiously. I don’t want to change it up for fear of becoming barren. In the brain…
So my day always begins with coffee. Well, I guess it actually starts with me getting out of bed, lurching into the bathroom, doing that stuff, feeding the cats, and then coffee. Coffee helps me wake up sanely. I’m not one of those super annoying people who jump out of bed shouting “Today is gonna be a great day!” Not until I’ve had coffee…
Coffee in hand, I head to my favourite chair in the living room and fire up the ol’ laptop. Anxious to get started, with great ideas bouncing about my brain, I immediately open my emails. Some of those tend to lead me to reading articles about other stuff that my monkey brain deems important. And for the next 20 or 30 minutes, down the rabbit hole I go!
But eventually I recover and gain some control over my creative brain and close my emails. Commitment and firm dedication to the craft reestablished, I head to Facebook.
Monkey Brain Love Facebook
You’ve heard of Facebook, right? That little social media app that’s the furthest thing from social you can get. My monkey brain loves it! Facebook is like a laser pointer to a cat. Sure, you can just scroll through your feed mindlessly. Or you can click on links and follow random breadcrumbs to a world barely imagined! A world filled with the craziest assortment of wackjobs, nutbars, conspiracies, products that no one in their right mind should pay for, and cats.
That’s right, probably the only good thing about Facebook is cat videos. I could lose myself in hours of cat videos if I let myself. But I would never…
So anyway, after a brief struggle for control of my laptop with monkey brain, I get ready to write.
Once I start writing, I become pretty focused. Not much can distract me when I’m in “the zone”. Let me give you an example of how this works.
The Meandering Path To My Post
Pretend I’m going to write a blog post about coming up with birthday gift ideas for my teenage children. My inner brain workings look a bit like this;
“Zachary used to wear red hoodies all the time. Now he doesn’t. I wonder if we should get him a red hoodie for his birthday? Maybe he’d prefer another colour. Or perhaps an ice cream cake for his birthday? Does he still like ice cream cakes? I know I like ice cream. I could eat ice cream right now, with my coffee. Mmm, coffee ice cream is good! Nice and refreshing. So is the hot tub. I wonder when they’ll get that pump fixed? I’d like to sit in the hot tub with my ice cream and coffee. I hope it’s fixed soon. I also need to fix that leak in the bathroom. Maybe I should call a plumber this week? He probably won’t be available for a month! In a month our free preview to Amazon Prime expires. Should we pay for it? Is it worth it? I suppose we could try it out until the Fall. Maybe cancel around Zach’s birthday…I wonder if we should get him a red hoodie for his birthday?
Yes, the struggle is real…
So remember way back in the early part of this article when I said I write a lot of junk? Need I say more?
Getting It Done
Despite my penchant for distraction, somehow I get my writing done. I write a few sentences, or a paragraph or two. Then I’ll get up from my chair and wander into the kitchen. Maybe brew another coffee, or get a bowl of ice cream, and then wander back to my laptop. More words, more sentences. Somehow it slowly coalesces into a relatively logical article.
Most days, 500 words becomes 1000 words. And then I’ll walk away from my computer, go outside, go to work, go shopping, make dinner. But I come back to my writing and start tidying it up.
I never write a post from start to finish in one day. I always have to revisit my words the next day. A new day seems to shift my brain a little, just enough to see other ways of saying something. So my second day is my “sober second thought” day. My edit day.
From Brain To Page
But how do I get my ideas? Do the topics just pop into my head? Yes, sometimes they do. So I need to be prepared. I must have pen and paper near at hand to catch these fleeting flashes of inspiration. No matter where I am…
I’m 63 years old. I don’t have a mind like a steel trap. More like a collapsible plastic sieve. So if I didn’t write these ideas down, within five minutes my brain will have forgotten the brilliant idea. Sometimes, if I’m at work, I’ll jot something down on a piece of paper and stick it in my pocket. But I’ll also pop open one of my notes apps and type something in there.
But if I’m home, let’s say in the middle of the night, and in a deep sleep, I’m not going to fiddle with some newfangled app on my phone. So I keep a pen and sticky notes on my bedside. That way, when I wake suddenly in the dead of night with a brilliant post idea, I can quickly jot it down and get right back to sleep. It’s almost like I was never awake, but I’ve captured my brilliant inspiration for later. Here’s an example of that.
Discipline Is The Key
Despite my wacky writing process, I’ve learned that discipline is key to getting a legible, reasonably intelligent post published. Maintaining some consistency to the process of writing comes as a result of discipline.
My minimum of 500 words is my starting point and, so long as I maintain my commitment to that, I have a process for writing this website. I get a little stressed when I have too many other things to get done that may interfere with my writing time. But I think that little bit of stress helps me to maintain my discipline. It means I care enough about writing my blog posts that I don’t want to slack off.
And here we are, some 1500 plus words into my post. I’ve been writing this over a two day period, so I’m exceeding my 500 word goal. And that’s generally how it all works for two posts a week.
I’ll never be teaching creative writing to a classroom of eager students. This process works for me. If you write, I’m sure you have your own process. I don’t recommend emulating me. Unless you’re okay stimulating your brain with coffee ice cream and funny cat videos!