At TeenCamp Darragh asked something like how do I write for this site. It was something I was wondering myself. I’ve not really stood back and observed or done analysis of how I do these things. I actually searched the archive in case I wrote this before as the lines between thoughts in my head, comments on another blog, Twitter messages and previous blog posts are blurred. But here goes:
It starts with a line, sometimes a phrase and even just a word. Lots of times the killer punch is what goes down first and then I stretch that punch and twist it and then build around it. Without being all philosophically bullshitty about it, what I write is an entanglement of emotions and feelings and imagery and I try and turn that into text. The energy from these decreases in the conversion though.
I find that the outro is written first and as I write that, the foundation or the start of the post then comes into view. The message to me as I said, is a type of emotion or feeling and so I try and describe that first in the post and then move on to the parts around it. This message or takeaway is a blurry image in my mind and I find that I have to think about the words that best try and describe it and sometimes I get it right and sometimes what comes out on a blog post is a rough description of what is in my mind.
Then I take the lines I’ve just written and I move them around on the page. 6th line becomes 2nd line. No, it’s merged with the first line. No, it’s moved back into the 3rd. Things are chopped and changed until they “feel” right to me. As this is happening there is still back of the brain thinking and those new thoughts or sentences get thrown into the mix too and the line might go up top or down the bottom or in the middle.
Photo owned by mathplourde (cc)
Then I walk away from it all. I go read something totally unrelated or watch a video or do something else. I then come back after getting some “external” stimuli and start adding to what I just wrote or add some new thoughts. This walking away can be minutes or hours though I find hours and days take away what really is a high at putting characters together to form words that express the images and emotions that my brain relates to the topic.
Towards the end of the writing comes the rhythm. It’s the internal rhythm in my mind but I find that when I read i want to read something that has a beat to it which keeps me driving through a piece. It’s the background beat to when you jog or dance or talk. Get this wrong and your brain trips on the text and you have to restart.
Then comes the rereading. I might read a blog post I’ve just written about twenty times, checking it over, looking for somethings to tweak. I rarely get external feedback. I never spellcheck using a machine. If I miss it, I miss it. This is me. I find external feedback corrupts (to a degree) the flow and what you’ve just written is no longer yours.
Yet with all of that I write some utter crap but now and then I’ve created a gem or at least something I’m proud of. It’s silly to think that what you write has to hit the mark each and every time. That just dampens the creative bits of your brain which is not good. You hit a home run now and then but you still need to swing that bat a lot to do so. Nobody starts off good and nobody will ever start off great or become so within a few posts.
Another question, then – how long does it take you, on average, to write a post for the site – like the post above, for instance?
It takes me bloody ages to craft an entry, and half the time, it’s only a caption to a photograph (must write faster).
“I cannot write five words, but that I change seven.” (Dorothy Parker) Sounds like you and Dorothy would have got along Damien. You’ve captured the surge, ebb and flow of your writing process beautifully there.
I found myself thinking how well you describe what goes on in my own writing process. Different material but very similar sounding stages of post-crafting. I will reread those twenty times on occasion, tweak a word here and there – and then you have to let it go, out into the ether. You don’t always nail it but you move on to the next post and keep it comin’.
@John 34-35 minutes for the above post.
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I have often wondered if the process of designing buildings on paper has an effect on the shape of the building. Put it another way, would a building built along lines marked out on the ground result in a shape that drawings on paper could never achieve. I once saw a process where bales of hay were used to mock-up the building outline, allowing people to move walls and change shapes in life size dimensions from the inside. The resulting shape was then transformed to paper to design the building proper.
Now apply this to words. Could the subject be formed up prior to using paper/screen, or even before using words? If anyone has heard of a technique I’d be interested to hear.
Very interesting post, Damien, much of which I can relate to. For example, the way a new piece of writing starts seems like a kind of crystallisation, beginning with one small idea that grows in every direction (the trick is then to shape it suitably). That applies more to fiction than to my blog, though.
I think writing is a lot more like painting, collage and other art forms than is sometimes supposed.