That’s Not How it Works

The creative process for each person is different, but I’m going to describe some aspects of mine in case anyone is interested or wants to share their own thoughts on the matter.

As a professional writer during the day (not writing anything interesting, however), I have trained myself to produce on command at any time during the day under any circumstances and often with a lot of noise, distractions and other people hovering around me.

This skill has come in handy with my fiction writing, but when I think of the creative process, I don’t think of just the physical act of typing words; I think of different phases, instead. And the most fun phase of them all, for me at least, is that time before all the heavy duty writing occurs. When ideas are sprouting and connecting and forming the fleshed-out premise or world and plot of a story.

For example, last night was very productive from a creative standpoint. It involved doing lots of sit-ups, pushups and pullups, and watching Top Gear, U.K. Oh, and going to the bathroom. More on that later. To the untrained eye, I was goofing off for much of the evening, but while my body was distracted, my brain was dead on, focused on its target of working on the outline for the followup to Redemption. I kept my laptop up and my notebook handy, and during that two hour block last night, I came up with the full premise and general plot for book #4 in the Drayoom series (surprisingly), watched a tutorial on Scrivener (between sets of sit-ups), came up with three more chapters for book #2, and took notes on events and connections to be included in the same book. Oh, and earlier that day, the title for book#2 came to me, while I was…um…peeing. I chanted the name a few times to myself to make sure I wouldn’t forget it, since I did NOT have a notebook handy in the bathroom.


Often, people have asked about this strange process and have tried their best to understand it. It’s not like it’s magical or unknowable, but the process itself doesn’t follow the way most people imagine it to be. Writing a novel takes time. A lot of time. Days and weeks honing an outline (if one chooses to use an outline). Huge blocks of hours sitting in front of a keyboard, typing away. More and more time re-writing and editing the manuscript. And it goes and goes until the thing is done or (like I used to do with my paintings), I can’t think of anything else I can do to the thing that won’t make it worse. I think people get that this creative dance takes time. However, when I block out, say two hours to write, and I start playing with Rocky (my rescue dog) or walking around or doing pushups or whatever, that’s still me being in creative mode. And that, I don’t think a lot of people intuitively understand.

It’s not like an office environment where if you aren’t sitting down, responding to an e-mail or writing a proposal, you’re not doing work.

This is more like surfing. I gotta get all my gear and my body prepped. Then I gotta get in the water and paddle out to the deep water. And then? Well, I use my judgement and pick the right wave. Sometimes, while I’m waiting, I might watch Top Gear. Sometimes, I might do pullups. I might even just sit there, silently thinking and not moving at all. Even if someone else can’t see it, I am constantly bringing up ideas in my mind and shooting them down or building on them, cultivating them in the hope they become “keepers.” They are my waves. And as soon as I get the right one, the surfing can commence!

OK, that was a bit of rambling, but I hope some of that made sense. I think it is probably different for other authors and artists, but that’s how it has always worked for me.

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