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.