Last week, I posted about my Ultimate Writing Enemy, so this week I thought I’d follow up with my ultimate ally.
When I first started writing, I thought there were three components to being an author:
Twenty-four books later (ZINNIA launches July 30th) and I have decided that all three are important. Buuuuuuut … they haven’t proven to be the most important for me.
For me, the ultimate writing ally is thinking.
Now, I know that sounds really broad and perhaps a tad useless, so I’ll add some context here. When I first started writing, I’d open up a document and stare. And nothing would get written. Over the years, I’ve learned to wait for the feeling.
And that needs more context, part 2.
When I’ve done enough thinking about a book, I get to a point where I want to write so badly, it almost hurts. I can (and have!) written chapters on the Boston T. On my cell phone. At Whole Foods. You get the idea. That sensation only happens when I’ve thought about a chapter (or chapters) enough that I’m ready to go. More often, then feeling is a pang of readiness and I force the chapters out like so many babies through a birth canal. But if I haven’t set aside time to think, nothing gets born, if you get what I mean.
Here’s how it works. I map some stuff out and then wait a day or two (which is time I usually spend on another book). Then I come back to the outline, edit it a little and think. At some point, I stop needing to think and just itch to write. That’s when I know I’m ready to go.
Full disclaimer 1: When I start writing, it often turns into something else, and I’ve learned to stop fighting that.
Full disclaimer 2: I’d been doing this thinking-thing for a while without having really given it a formal stage in my writing process. That is, until I saw this interview with biographer David McCullough. He talks about the importance of research writing, editing, but also setting aside time to think.
On a personal level, it’s taken me a lot of time and books to get to where I trust myself and my process. It’s different for everyone, but I figured that if I had David McCullough doing the same thing, then it can’t be too wacky.
So there you have it. My ultimate writing ally: setting time aside in my process to just think.