I read about the writing process a lot, or talk to people about it. There’s apparently some process that you’re supposed to develop so that your writing becomes as good as it can be, some way of going about writing things that’s the right way. I mean, there’s no right way but there’s certainly a wrong way, or so I’ve been told.

Illustration by Megan Mulholland

One Master of Fine Arts student told me that before writing a story, he will, for several months, just think about plot and themes without ever writing a word. Some creative writing teachers have told me they write everyday. Others, only a couple times a week. On computers, or at first on yellow pads or on their phones hastily on the bus. But I don’t have a process yet where I write things in certain modes systematically, not really.

I tend to write in my room for about an hour at a time, on my computer, at my desk or in my bed. That sounds not-so special. But I get sort of hyped up for it. The door has to be closed, and my phone tucked away somewhere, not talking to anyone or going on the Internet. It’s not like doing homework or writing some paper. It’s like a Zen Buddhist thing where I clear my mind. Or, at least, ideally.

Most times, I wind up leaving the computer to get something to drink, while trying to avoid Facebook and things like that, maybe eat a little food, but not a lot since it takes time and the point is to clear your mind and get back to the computer as soon as possible. The idea is that you get focused in and write through to the end of the thing that you’re trying to write, but that’s hard to do. Sometimes you have to step away.

I know this writer who gets up at 4 a.m. and runs five miles then locks himself in his office and writes for six hours everyday.

He keeps himself in there and his kids aren’t allowed to bother him too much, and I can’t imagine the amount of words he’s getting out each day. If he’s writing nonstop he could be getting out maybe 12,000 words. I don’t think I could write for half that time. After an hour, maybe, maybe two, I can feel my brain deflating. I can get 6,000 close-to-polished words in a week, on a good week.

I guess I just still don’t know how it’s supposed to go. Some people write for hours and hours and some people write sparingly. Some on the go and others in a quiet space. I guess I do both, mostly the second, which results in better writing but also less writing, so it’s a tradeoff. In both cases most of what comes out of a draft is shit anyway, but it’s about making it as lacking in shit as possible. Like I said, there’s no right or wrong way, there’s only the best way, for you.

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