Writing Processes: Ways of Seeing

‘What process do you follow?’ I was recently asked by tyroper. I took this to mean, specifically, ‘how are you writing currently?’ (Processes of projects shift, I find, with each of these). So, I replied:

Write (and be aware that some pieces won’t make a final cut); look for themes and threads through the whole; tweak these pieces out; look for a running order; edit all the while; fill in the gaps, as necessary; offer out to peer review as I go; some fine tuning (like bonsai!); craft into the object of beauty; think on other writing all the while; produce and promote; write all the while . . .

This is, of course, a project process about a collection. Last night I finished the first draft of the final piece for this collection (the first of which was written in 2009). That, in itself, may say something about this process. It is love. However, my reason for writing here is because that prompter question has given me cause to think on writing processes, personal and persistent.

Some days on from the original question, I now interpret it this way: ‘In which ways do you write?’

I write with time. Years ago, somewhere, maybe from a tutor at University, I was offered the suggestion that we can place a ‘problem’ into cold store, let it be; the ineffable matter of our subconscious pliability would work it all through. It would deliver when it was ready to deliver. These are not the exact words given to me. This is the sentiment given to me. It’s the same now with writing. One day, when the idea is placed, the day continues; some day, when the idea becomes, it is delivered.

I write as I walk. I don’t use ink but air. I don’t use air but space. I don’t always think it all through. I let the walking take the words along. I don’t write the words in exact orders as I do this. I don’t really think about the words at all: it’s just a process of letting things seep. Or perhaps it’s a steeping, a brewing.

I write, physically, in notebooks, when words insist themselves — no matter how inconveniently — and when the writing time is now. This isn’t a way of suggesting there’s a time to sit down and write and a time to go wash up the dishes: this is a way of saying that when words insist, the ‘writing time’ is all that the present is.

I write, slightly removed, by keyboard, but I pause first. I wait. Sometimes this might take half an hour. I sit, lean back, think, but I try not to push that thinking. Words don’t come when pushed. If I’m at my keyboard it’s because writing time is possible.

I write slowly because each word might have weight. If I’ve written only two hundred words, one hour, then I have written two hundred words and that’s fine. The process of every one of those two hundred words is the same: the feel of it, the placement, the texture, the rhythm, the poetry (though this is not poetry I’m writing about here), the flow, the possibility. Some writers advocate the process of ‘write, don’t edit as you go’. I find, if I’m deep enough in, I write, I check, I write, I edit, I think, shift, re-read, all on the go. It doesn’t stop my flow, though it enhances it. I write slowly: perhaps we now know why.

I write immersed. I can’t write skimpily, throw away, without thought or at least without the possibility of layers: I can’t do this because I don’t want to do this. The stories and pieces that take place might be the simplest, slimmest slivers, but they need subtle weights too. I write whilst looking out for these.

I write in acknowledgment that some pieces will be beautiful, possibly, and some will fall short. I write in acceptance that some pieces will not flow the way I thought they might: they will take me elsewhere, darkly, strangely, or with grace I couldn’t hope to muster in my waking conscious thoughts. I write with an open hand, trusting that I’ll be led to a fruitful place.

I write in other ways. These ways here are just the beginnings of seeing. What other ways are there, will there be?

10 thoughts on “Writing Processes: Ways of Seeing

  1. tyroper says:

    Wow. Awesome post. I think I will capture my current process in a journal post, and do that every six months. I know I will want to go back and look at how I was writing a year or more ago. Really appreciate your post.

    • joelseath says:

      Thanks, and I really appreciate the inspiration you gave me to think here. 🙂 Capturing your writing processes will be an interesting exercise. I may well do it myself. I wrote a short manifesto of writing ten years or so ago (there’s a post up about it somewhere deep back!) I came back to that manifesto towards the end of last year. Perhaps it needs to be done more frequently though.

  2. ewcrowe says:

    Nice words on the process of writing. I’m in that group of edit after I’ve finished the first draft. If I try to edit while I go I get caught up on word choice, sentence structure and other crafting hullabaloo and can work on one chapter, one scene, one paragraph for hours and truly not get anything else done. Or worse I get frustrated that something just isn’t coming out right.

    • joelseath says:

      Thanks for your feedback. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t edit after I finished drafting too, but writing this post also showed me ways of writing as I was writing! You’re right in alluding to how one of the ways I outline in this post is fraught with pitfalls: I know exactly what you mean about being ‘caught up’ in the crafting. It happens here sometimes too, sure, if things aren’t so well in tune. The more I’ve written though, the more I come to accept the processes and the words (or lack of them!) It’s good to hear how other writers work. There’s no one right way after all.

  3. Wow, that was poetic and inspiring. I think at that moment we begin to write it really helps to go back and read over what you put down before going to far ahead, so that if changes need to be made here or there it still continues to flow just perfectly. I think to go back later and redo anything, the flow will not have the same spirit put into as it did the moment the words touched paper.

    • joelseath says:

      Thank you also here. Will you write how you write? You have an empty canvas to start to fill: what will you press up there? This spirit that you write of, yes: it’s something I’m aware of, i.e. trying not to force it into unnatural shapes. I can’t capture it exactly in words (because, by its very nature it won’t be) but the spirit, the essence, the love between the words is the dark matter binding them all together, the string in the theory of the piece . . .

      • tyroper says:

        Hey, haven’t seen you around WP lately, I just finished your Four Kinds of Wreckage and wanted to put my review on Goodreads. But, the book is not on Goodreads. I really enjoyed the bite sized stories. I got much more engaged in the stories for the final two thirds of the book. Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, sometimes sexy, overall a great experience. This is my first reading break since February. I read Charles book, too. Hope all is well.

      • joelseath says:

        Hi Ty. I’ve been in and out of WP, but I know I need to check in more with other writers too (I have a whole list of writers to visit). Thanks for your feedback on FKoW. That’s very much appreciated. I’ve also had it in mind to get visible on Goodreads, but haven’t got that far yet. I know I ought to. Is there any advice you can give me about GR? Also, if you feel inclined, please do put up a review of FKoW on Amazon. I won’t be offended if you choose not to though. 🙂 Thanks again, Ty. You are very much appreciated.

        [Addition, a little later]

        OK, so I’ve sorted out my Goodreads account. It would appear that Disintegration and Other Stories was already listed there because it had garnered some reviews at Amazon (that’s how I read it anyway). Four Kinds of Wreckage has yet to be reviewed. Now that I’ve been delving around at Goodreads though, you should find FKoW via the new link at the bottom of my ‘About’ page (this blog theme doesn’t seem to like links within comments!)

        Let me know if it all works OK (or not as the case may be!)

      • tyroper says:

        I’ll check Goodreads later. I posted a review on AMZN & WP.

      • joelseath says:

        Thanks for the review, Ty. I think I shall start a feedback/review section on this blog: the gathering in of readers’ constructive words.

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