In a recent workshop, one of my fellow students asked the rest of us what our writing process is. I hadn’t thought much about process at that point, and wasn’t sure what I do could be called a process. Process sounds so formal and, I don’t know – organized.
My method is to vomit words onto the page. Just open up the brain and puke them all out, random thoughts, any order, spelling and grammar be damned. Dialogue without quotation marks or tags unless an appropriate tag pops out of my fingertips. Left pinky near the CapsLock key so that when I can’t think of a word (and that happens a lot more often the older I get), or don’t want to bog down the spew-flow by looking for just the right turn of phrase, I just type SOMETHING or BLAH BLAH or some other reminder to fill in the blanks later.
I didn’t always write this way. I used to try to get it right the very first time. One draft, fall in love with my brilliant words, never ever delete anything for fear I would never be that smart again. Well, I was never that smart to begin with and soon learned the joy of editing. Not just editing, but SLASHING and BURNING and CLEARCUTTING. Highlighting entire sentences, paragraphs, pages, and hitting the delete key. Not only did I not die, but I was emancipated. Oh the freedom! The release! It was literarily orgasmic.
At times this “process” can result in some pretty cool stuff. With no self-restraint, my characters tend to wander off in new directions I can’t say no to (why say no? I’m not their mother). They say things that shock and amuse me – and sometimes piss me off. But there are other times, unfortunate and dark times, when the process produces nothing but absolute s#!t.
After years of perfecting practicing goofing around with my version of process, I now think of anything I start to write to be like a newborn child. Jump headlong into its life, nurture it, love it, dote on it, and make silly faces at it. And clean up after it. Mop up the literary poop and puke.
When all is said and done, there’ll be a sparkling clean, gleaming piece of writing to be proud of: a shiny, new, vomit-free baby.