I’ve been spending a lot of time writing in the last year or so. It might be more accurate to say, I have spent a lot of time staring off in to space and then writing out a few words every once in a while. I’m still pretty new to writing, so I have a lot to learn about what it takes to write consistently well.
It’s tempting to romanticize writing. Writing is seen as this thing where you sit down and the words pour out, fully formed, able to exactly communicate what you want them to, in a way that moves people. I’m finding that while this happens from time to time, writing for me is more strenuous. I sometimes think about the scene in Finding Forester where Forester yells “Punch the Keys, for god sake!”
Sometimes, I get distracted by looking for tools that will help me write better. What if I had a better pen, or a better writing pad? Will this or that software program finally help me finish a writing project? My writing would be so much better if only I had a way to organize it more!
The problem is that there are slivers of truth in these things. They can all help me write. It’s true. But the biggest problem is me. I need to sit and do it. I need to punch the keys.
I write all sorts of different things. I’ve been writing letters mostly. Small handmade cards to friends and family, and sometimes strangers. I dabble in poetry from time to time. I’ve been trying to write non-fiction narratives around some major events in my life (like my dad’s heart attack and recovery). And of course, there is never a shortage of fictional plot bunnies pouring out of my head.
Ideas are a dime a dozen. Real things are only created by discipline. I’ve been trying to develop mine, and while I’m improving, I still have a long ways to go. I’m creating my process. I remove distractions and have a clean desk or table in front of me. If I’m typing on a computer, then I’ll likely have the screen completely blank except for my words, and all notifications are off. I save everything. I throw ideas out, get them down and move on. Organizing them comes later.
Sometimes I will stare at the cursor for a long time. Hours even. Then in a burst, a few hundred words will pour out of me. They will stink. I think perhaps first words always stink. The words in this blog post stink, for example. But I don’t need them to not stink, I just need to get them out. This is how I write: I write. The rest comes later, I think.