Finding Your Process

Earlier this week, I discovered that my oldest child (7) was diagnosed with ADHD. One of the things her psychologist suggested as a way to help her with her homework was to get a big dry erase board, and let her write her work on it as large as she could, to help engage her gross motor skills in learning.

This afternoon, she was struggling with her sentences, so I figured hey, why not start now? I dragged out the whiteboard, handed her a marker, and she started doing her homework. She stands up, writes out her sentence on the board, then sits down and transcribes it. Then, she stands up and does it again.

All writers have their own processes. Some of us must hole ourselves up in a dark room, in utter silence, or perhaps with mood music, and write without distractions. Some dictate their work. Others sit in coffee shops with laptops or notebooks, looking off into the distance thoughtfully. Still others love the fury of a group writing session, at social events like a NaNoWriMo write-in. Some like outlines. Others run by the seat of their pants.

One of the things I have struggled with over the last year is the realization that my process doesn’t work. I’ve always tended to write the same way. A flash of blinding inspiration, followed by frenetic deadlines and massive quantities of padding and meandering. Then, months and months of doing nothing. I would declare to any and all who would listen:

Outlines? Outlines are for the uninspired. I need freedom!

I had a bit of a crisis this fall. In October, as I geared up for the NaNoWriMo event, I didn’t know if I was really a writer or not. I mean, I have the talent. I like to think I am pretty good, even. But I have never really finished a novel. I haven’t finished a story in longer than I care to think about, and in fact have never finished anything to the point that it’s good enough for me to shop around.

So why do I even bother?

After many tears and much angst, I realized something. I am a writer. It is as much a part of the way I live and breathe as the way I walk. I can’t not be a writer. And I do have the potential to be a professional. What I lack is discipline. The way I was doing things wasn’t working for me, so it was time to try something new.

Maybe even… an outline.

In the end, I didn’t outline my novel. I did finish the event though, and had a sense of accomplishment that I’ve lacked in previous years. And I’ve recommitted myself to discipline. I snagged a friend who happens to be much, much better than I am at being disciplined, and recruited her to start slave driving.

And it’s working.

I finished a handwritten WIP last week. And actually wrote an outline for it for transcription purposes. (I know, you’re supposed to write it before you start, but throw me a bone here. I’m trying!) I have a goal of transcribing 1,000 words (twice as much as I wanted to write, but she challenged me, knowing I can write faster than that.) And it’s working. I’m meeting my goals, day by day. I even have a tracking spreadsheet.

I have… discipline.

It’s baby discipline, to be sure. And only time will tell if that discipline sticks and becomes something more. This is a good start.

So here I am. I am not a great writer. Not yet. But I will be.

4 thoughts on “Finding Your Process

  1. It can take a long time to sort out the process that works. I think that’s one of the real benefits of the 10,000 hours of practice: it gives you the chance to learn about your own needs, strengths and weaknesses.

  2. Great points here; you touched on so many that fit for me…having a child with developmental issues, trying to work out my writing process, and committing to honoring the writer within. Yep. Checking all the boxes over here.

  3. You make some very good observations about the writing process. I’ve never been one to outline before writing (especially fiction) because I want my characters to live and go where they want to go, rather than where I force them to go. Along the way, however, as I edit, I find outlines or roadmaps to be helpful to see that I haven’t taken too many detours.

    Congratulations on your developing discipline!

  4. It’s amazing how helping how helping our children with learning differences can enable us to see differently too. Reminds me of many experiences with my daughter who is now pursuing writing along with me. I currently am practicing some discipline techniques around my home to make it a more simplified environment that will function better with my busy family, my daughters’ and my chronic health conditions and still allow me to make my serious time to write. I feel what I learn from these discipline exercises will help with the business and editing side of writing which I dread so much.

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