Okay, But What Is Your Writing Process?

words on a page

I am here to help.

I am going to explain my writing process to you and this process can help you in a multitude of ways. You can apply it to blogging, memoirs, short stories, shitty anonymous letters to your boss, or grocery lists.

One of the most important things you can do is to create a comforting and inviting environment which welcomes you into it’s warm, supportive embrace. Free yourself from distractions. Immerse yourself into a world that exists only for you. Your words are waiting to be freed.

For example, as I write this, I have assumed my usual awkward position on my bed. I am laying across my unmade bed, on my side, with no head support. Randy is playing music in his office across the hall. His music is competing with Supernatural which I dialed up on Netflix for background noise.

Make sure your mind is clear. I am clearing my mind right now by drinking bourbon. But you pick the method that works best for you.

Understand that setbacks are part of the process. You can’t be perfect the first time through. Even on grocery lists. For instance, I always forget lemons.

That’s kind of a lie. I do always forget the lemons, that part is true. The lie is that we never work off a list. We wing it. We forget the shit we need. We buy shit we don’t need and then we wonder where all our money is going. I’ll tell you where it’s going. It’s invested in scented candles and produce that will turn into produce soup in the crisper drawer. 

But I digress.

I tried my hand at fiction and entered a contest. Short fiction. Under 1000 words. I worked my ass off on this story. I was proud of this story. The participants were divided into groups and given parameters to work within. I had to write a ghost story. I love ghost stories and I was all over it.

15 people in each group were awarded points.

I was not one of them.

So, you know, setbacks.

Here’s the thing to remember, though. Just because you can’t be in the top 15 does not mean you should give up.

No. You should not.

Just because you failed at writing fiction, when fiction isn’t something you fucking write, doesn’t mean you should give up. That’s dumb.

Before I write a blog post or work on the book or write out imaginary arguments with people from 30 years ago, I like to sit back and allow my thoughts to wash over me. I accept them and I allow them to be.

I would like to help you do the same. I will share my thoughts as an example:

Oh for fuck’s sake. 

Seriously, what the fuck are you doing?

Dean is so fucking hot. 

You will never get beyond mediocre/not bad. Seriously. That is the best you can hope for. 

So, what then? You want to just give up? Quit? Then what are you going to do? There isn’t anything else to do that is as good and you know it. Stop whining. You’re being a twat. 

Okay, you had that one idea for the book. Write it down before you forget it. 

That was pretty good, actually. 

I am goddamn David Sedaris. 

Whoa there, skippy. Did you forget the whole ‘didn’t even break the top 15’ thing?

Sammy is pretty fucking hot, too. 

I wonder what Billy Idol is doing right this second?

Don’t start fucking choking now. Yes, sending the book proposal for the second time is nerve wracking, but you cannot continue to pretend like it doesn’t exist. You’re in the home stretch. 

It’s better this time. 

It still sucks. 

We can do this all night, or you can write a fucking blog post, jingle brains

So, there. It feels good to just let it all out, doesn’t it?

Anyway, that is my writing process. The words in my head vary, but this is a fairly inclusive sampling.

Another suggestion I have: don’t fly by the seat of your pants with every single writing project. I am positive this is good advice because that is what I have been doing for five years now. I am sure there are multiple benefits to planning and organizing.

Okay, fine. I don’t just fly by the seat of my pants writing, I do that with my whole life. And it’s been longer than five years. 

I have some work to do on the chapter I’m sending, but I’m close to sending my proposal back to the agent. Y’all, I am so afraid to do this. What if I don’t get even 15th place again?

I’ll post the ghost story I submitted in a few days. I want at least a few people besides me and Randy to read it.

 

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Add your comments below. Profanity is encouraged, but not required. ;)
  1. caveman says:

    I’m more of the pretend I’m going to write until I can’t get away with it, then type furiously til the work forms itself on the page kinda guy. But I’m not sure if your Nicholas cage model would work for the kind of writing I do most (yay research).

    Reply
  2. Terri Lee says:

    I’ve heard that the writing process you described was the very same process used by Ernest Hemingway! You send in that second proposal, because you have a voice that needs to be heard far and wide. I love David Sedaris and his sister, Amy, too, but they are them and you are you. (Oh wow, I just realized I created a tiny poem with that sentence! So what if it sounds a little “Dr. Seuss! Haha!!) I can’t wait to read the ghost story—I love how you tied that together with “Supernatural”. I’m sure that was deliberate! Just nod and say, “Yes! Yes it was! I love how you picked up on that!”
    Keep writing and keep ROCKING, Michelle!!! (And put down the bourbon! Haha!)

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      hahahaha….yes…yes it was.

      (not really)

      Thank you! I have some work to do, but it’s getting there. I’m sending it and if it is rejected, wellll…..then I’ll try again. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Terri Lee says:

    That’s exactly it! Fingers crossed, because I’m looking forward to reading the book! 🙂

    Reply
  4. Pauline says:

    We are totally meant to be friends. I can tell. I have a writing process, too.

    Reply
  5. I received 99 rejections before getting a contract for my first book. Pour another bourbon and embrace the process. Never, ever give up.

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    • Michelle says:

      Thank you for this. I’m not going to give up…nope…even though sometimes I wish that I had wanted to be an astronaut or a brain surgeon. Something more attainable than this. Haha.

      Reply
  6. Krista says:

    Keep writing and keep submitting and keep the bourbon flowing (in moderation, of course!).

    I’m positive I was a runner and an author in previous lives.

    Pass the bourbon.

    Reply
  7. I so love that someone else has a “throw it out there and see how it goes” approach to the whole blogging thing. It makes me feel a lot better about failing all the how-to posts I read that have a multitude of steps that I skip over as I toss my thoughts onto the screen. I hope you make the top 15 next time 🙂

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Thank you. I’m not out yet…I have to write another story this weekend. Sci Fi. Yeah..probably won’t get the top 15 on this one either, but I’m going to give it a shot. The good thing is, I get feedback so at least I can learn something from this. Really…just to see if I even want to eventually try my hand at fiction.

      Reply
  8. Jackie G says:

    You go girl for what it’s worth I for one love your style ! I don’t write, can’t blog shit thing Is I like to talk to fucking much my joy is in reading what others write and you got to have both somebody to write and someone to read

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  9. Laurie says:

    The committee in our head can be ruthless, cruel and distracting. I’m in the same boat…the rapid fire ricocheting cerebral dance is exhausting…but it’s ours so we must suit up and turn lemons into lemonade. You are one of my favorite people. Much success is coming your way.

    Reply
    • Michelle says:

      Thank you so much..and it IS exhausting but it IS ours. I am just happy that I’ve reached a point in life where I am happy to be exactly who I am. I mean…I don’t LIKE all of it, and I’m super critical, but I’ve gained some acceptance as well and that is fucking awesome.

      Reply
  10. Keep on writing and submitting your work. You never get anywhere if you don’t try!

    Reply
  11. Hi,
    I found you in Midlife Boulevard FB Group.
    This post was kind of funny. I thought you were going to write how to focus, but you are not focused. Is that the point, it is what it is? Flying by the seat of your pants works?
    Nice to meet you.
    Janice

    Reply
  12. Katnap says:

    haha
    your crazy head makes my crazy head feel not so alone & crazy

    Reply
  13. Pat says:

    I can relate to this on so many levels, except I would replace the bourbon with a fine red wine. I too fly by the seat of my pants in writing and life. Oh of course, it doesn’t always work, but what a helluva ride!

    Reply
  14. Hilarious. I just finished reading Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write and this is the perfect counterpoint. I especially liked the “uncomfortable position on the bed.” Keep writing, and remember, everyone writes a shitty first draft.

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  15. Doug in Oakland says:

    Flying by the seat of your pants? What is this “flying” you speak of? I’m over here hobbling around with my quad-cane…
    Can’t wait to read your ghost story, by the way. Hang in there, you’ll make it.

    Reply
  16. KK says:

    I approve of your writing process. I say that whilst trying to ignore the chaos that is my minute bedsit, that I fully intended to re-organise before I started my degree so I have a comfortable working/living space.
    Of course I start my course this Monday and the only organisation I have done is to vacuum today and do some washing…oh wait, that’s still in the machine waiting for me to take it out and hang it!
    Gah, pass the whisky!

    Reply
  17. Nancy D says:

    Hey Michelle! I feel so much better when I read your posts. Just try to remember the only person you need to please is yourself. (And to be kind to yourself) sometimes I think we are kind to everyone BUT us.

    I came up with an idea for a mystery today with my mom – she loves mysteries, and has written many scientific papers, but never fiction. We’re gonna work on it together while she recovers!

    Just keep doing whatever is is that works for you, because you are bringing your own kind of light to the world. Oh and read The Five People You Meet in Heaven when you get a chance.

    Reply
  18. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is always write in a private place with no interruptions. This lesson really hit home for me when I was writing in a busy coffee shop one Saturday morning thinking, “This sucks, this sucks, this sucks, this sucks, this sucks, why am I even doing this, what’s wrong with me” and some stranger started talking to me about my journal. And after that little break I looked back at what I’d written and it wasn’t half bad.
    Maybe not half good either, but apparently my journal decorating abilities rock, so at least I can do something.

    Reply
  19. trillie says:

    Ooh, can’t wait for the ghost story!

    PS: Billy Idol is right this moment eating an entire bunt cake by himself to celebrate that someone mentioned him on the internet 😉

    Reply
  20. http://wendyoftherock.blogspot.com/2014/11/i-cannot-keep-it-in-any-longer-or.html

    I hope this works coz I’m doing this on my phone in bed with the wrong glasses on…
    If you have a minute or three, I’d love you to read this old post of mine about author vs writer. Coz if I was to write a response it would be a précis of the blogpost …
    Grrrrrrrrr

    Reply
  21. Sandra says:

    Oh thank goodness I’m not the only one who wonders what Billy Idol is up to! As for writing and submitting, it’s a tough kick to the ego, but it takes guts, and I’m sure there’s some lovely saying out there about “you can’t make your dreams come true if you don’t at least submit your ghost story…” There probably is a cute caption to go along with that saying. And that would totally be Instagram worthy! The inspirational pics get a lot of likes….In all seriousness, you are a great writer, and I read you time and time again because your style is inviting and you aren’t pretentious, so just keep the bourbon by your bedside, and don’t give up.

    Reply
  22. I got twenty bucks that says Billy Idol is dancing with himself right this second.

    My writing process is EXACTLY like yours, except instead of bourbon I use vodka and instead of writing, I piss around on the internet. I’m in what would otherwise be a very comfortable chair made cramped due to two little dogs on my lap and trying to balance a notebook computer on top of them (and goddammit they won’t hold still). I should try your awkward bed position.

    I just stumbled on your blog today … it’s awesome! I’d buy your book in a red hot minute.

    Loved the post!

    Reply
  23. This is the same process I go through in writing my own and reading other people’s posts. Uncomfortable, fighting with my eyes pretending that I don’t need those readers less than 2 feet away, a paragraph at a time before I get distracted. My family rants that I have no less than 12 windows open at once of things I want to read (currently 17) and it never seems to get to one. So yeah, I approve of your methods. And so what if one person doesn’t like your work. Thick skin goes along with the job. We will wait patiently until the write agent ‘gets you’ like we do. No rush if there is still bourbon in your glass.

    Reply
  24. stef says:

    I will totally read your story! And you’re braver than I am, for submitting your work to anyone…! I’d pass out if I thought someone was expecting me to write them something.

    I have the same thoughts about why the HECK do I bother writing, except that I’ve always enjoyed writing. Since, like, grade school. I also comfort myself with the line that it’s just for me, so who cares what anyone else thinks. It sort of/almost works.

    Reply
  25. Dean is fucking hot! I’m less a fan of Sam, mostly due to his demeanor.

    My former coworker, in one of her last days at the library, thought then was the time to play “Marry, Fuck, Kill”. She gave me Dean, Sam, Castiel. Now, I’m a fan of Castiel’s hilarity, but am not in lurve with him. However, I really don’t like Sam anymore. So, I said “Marry Dean, fuck Cas, kill Sam.” She said “I’m surprised you didn’t want to fuck Dean.” I looked at her and answered “Just ’cause you’re married doesn’t mean you can’t fuck anymore.” The look on her face….

    Reply
  26. mary-anne says:

    Can’t wait for your ghost story.
    So glad you are still around to brighten my day.

    Reply
  27. I’m stuck in the same exact hell you are in right now. It’s eating up my insides. I actually think my ulcer ate another ulcer. I have my book written and I edited it once. I got advice from another writer friend to sit and let it simmer for awhile before going back for edit number 2. I don’t know what to do with it and I’m so afraid to look. It’s like hiding behind the curtains and sucking my thumb while I sit and kick myself and call me names. It’s nerve wracking. I need bourbon. Maybe that’s the trick.

    Reply
  28. Bon says:

    Ah, I see our writing proccessii and grocery shopping habits are very similar. I raise my current glass of bourbon iced wine and murmur “Salut!”

    Reply
  29. I fucking love this. Be my new best friend?

    Reply
  30. Kerry says:

    Sam and Dean would inspire anyone.
    😉
    When it comes to writing, cannot give up, no matter the number of rejections. Thank you for sharing your process here.

    Reply
  31. Catherine says:

    Free myself from distractions? Too bad I have the internet on all my devices. I am doomed to never finish my novel at this rate.

    Reply
  32. Jana says:

    “I am goddamn David Sedaris.” Baahaahaaa! Wait — I’m not laughing at the prospect of you being David Sedaris, because you could totally pull it off — your writing skills are the shit. I’m laughing because I’ve said the same thing (although in my case, I think I decided I was another Jenny Lawson). Then I figured out how much work it was — I’m too lazy for that kind of effort 🙂

    Reply