On the Way I Write

Ah, the silence.

I’ve not forgotten about you all, promise. I’ve just been busy. Writing. Watching Monsterpiece Theater. Listening to old Natalie Merchant albums. Writing.

But mainly writing.

I can tell you that I’ve been putting together some interesting words, building interesting sentences from them, and the resulting idea structures are cool to look at. I’ve discovered things I’ve never seen before, I’ve realized things that I’ve never thought before.

I just have to figure out how to put the structures together.

My writing process is not precisely efficient. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone try it. It works for me, which is the important thing. But it’s not a model to emulate, and I know that.

I liken writing to building with LEGO. Words are pieces. Punctuation marks are pieces. Ideas are pieces. Put them together, and I build new ideas.

Writing, for me, especially on something like the piece I’m currently working on, produces paper. A lot of paper. I have a stack of eleven pieces of notebook paper on the desk. Some pages are in black ink. Others in blue. There’s a page that’s part black and part blue; ideas from different times collide. There’s a page in red. There’s a page that’s a flowchart. One page has a paragraph, some PHP code, and an Elbow lyric written on it. Some pages have “the voice.” Some pages are rambling and half-complete thoughts. These pages don’t go together. There’s no logical order to them — and no, the flowchart is not a road map. There’s nothing linear; I don’t write in anything approaching a linear fashion. But each page serves a purpose. It is an expression of an idea. It is a larger piece of the structure that I can see in my mind.

I am not yet ready to put these pages together. I suspect I need another six or seven pages before I can start connecting the ideas into something coherent. If this is a LEGO castle I’m building, I have parapets and drawbridges and crenelated walls, but they don’t go together yet. Some of the essentials are still missing. I haven’t found the pieces that go there. I may have to dig further into my crate of ideas. And I may find some wrong pieces, but I won’t know that until I go to put what I have together.

And the opening!

I have a difficult time writing without the opening. If I don’t have the perspective, if I don’t have the voice, then I spin my wheels. I will try out different openings, different voices, until I find the voice that clicks. I’ll write the same paragraph, the same sentence a half-dozen times, until it’s right.

In this case, I found the voice early. In cases where I can’t find the voice early on, I still amass the pile of papers, and once I have the voice I weave the papers and the structure into the voice. There’s nothing permanent about anything on the papers. They’re just ideas. There’s nothing final in their expression.

In other words, distilled to a single sentence — I have to experiment until I’m sure that it’s right, but once I know it’s right I’m fine.

Hence, my feelings of inefficiency.

But it’s how I write. And it works for me.

It’s working for this article, and I’m really happy about that. 🙂

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