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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

You Can’t Fight Process

(Before we start, I’d like to thank Kyle and Jenn over at the Mug of Woe project for [unofficially-but-officially-enough] accepting my submission for their upcoming collection.

I was assured that of the hundreds of entries received, mine was in the top thousand. Probably. Give or take a few dozen.

But I made the cut, so thanks again to the Mug of Woe gals. More news on that project at a later date.

Meanwhile, speaking of writing…)

Everyone who writes has a process. From the littlest cub reporter to the most prolific novelist, each of us has a set of steps we go through to get from blank page to finished product. Doesn’t matter if the end result is a best-selling page-turner or a new blurb for the back of the Toasty Cardboard-Os box. The process has to happen.

That doesn’t mean everyone’s process is the same, of course. Far from it. Some authors are fastidious and thorough, outlining and drafting and revising and editing their work into a smooth polished shine.

If I want ‘shine’, I’ll stare at the sun for a few hours, or pay some kid to wax my car. Or pay the kid to stare at the sun. Something.

I’m not exactly in that camp. If I want ‘shine’, I’ll stare at the sun for a few hours, or pay some kid to wax my car. Or pay the kid to stare at the sun. Something. But not writing.

I’d like to think I’m more in the mold — process-wise, if not exactly talent-wise — of Douglas Adams, who once famously said:

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

Thus, my personal writing process includes just three steps.

Step One begins with several aborted attempts to start a piece amid a handful of self-inflicted distractions, including but not limited to: TV watching, listening to music, snacks (often), beer (sometimes), aimless web surfing (MAN-DAH-TORY), not listening to music because it’s distracting, more snacks, bathroom breaks, dog walks, laundry, answering emails, self-flagellation (look it up; it’s not dirty — this time), dish washing, interpretive dancing, walking the neighbors’ dogs, wife-flagellation (yep, now it’s dirty), and praying to various deities to reverse time a few hours to give me back all the time I just wasted.

(I’d just waste it again, sure. But that 30 Rock I watched three hours ago was pretty good, so I wouldn’t mind seeing that again. Back ‘er up, Buddha — or Jesus or Shiva or FSM, whoever wants this one. I don’t care. Draw holy straws or something. Chop, chop.)

They say that if you have a particularly tricky problem that you can’t sort out, then you should leave it alone for a while and do something else, and maybe the answer will come to you. That’s the rationale behind Step One. I haven’t written anything for the day, and that’s a problem. By doing everything I can think of but write for several hours, the problem solves itself.

Of course, it’s replaced by a new problem. Namely, that it’s now three in the morning and I haven’t written anything for yesterday. Also, I’m too tired to focus on the screen, have eaten four jumbo bags of salt ‘n’ vinegar potato chips and have just watched enough Seinfeld reruns to choke a Newman. Those are problems, certainly. But not the original problem. In my world, that’s called ‘progress’.

It’s in Step Two that the desperation sets in. It’s time to write. It’s past time to write. It’s almost time to shower and shave and admit it’s tomorrow already. But first — to write.

The toughest part about free-form writing is to find the right topic. This is usually not an issue for me. Thanks to the hard work I’ve put in in Step One, I’m in the perfect mode to choose a topic here. Namely, sleep-deprived, hopped up on four pounds of pure sugar and carbs, and maybe a wee quarter-step away from full-blown psychotic hallucinations. Wanna write about the dog? Sure! How about something goofy you did last week? Peachy! Should we write about those giant spiders made of blood crawling down the walls to get us? Boy, howdy!

Nobody ever said Step Two was fun. But I read a long time ago that a good writing process should involve a lot of panic and screaming. So, you know, check and checkeroo.

With a suitable topic in hand, Step Three of the process pretty much takes care of itself. I just slap words onto the screen willy-nilly until one of several things happens:

  • I reach a natural stopping point and bring the topic to a proper conclusion.
  • I fall asleep drooling on the keyboard.
  • I can’t see the screen any more through blurry contacts. Or spiders.
  • My wife’s alarm goes off, and I have to rush to bed and pretend I was sleeping before she wakes up for the day.

Mostly the third thing, with numbers two and four running a close drool-and-neck second. And if I ever get to finish a post and wrap up a topic in a way that makes sense — well, you’ll be the first to know. Right after the spiders. Of course.

So, that’s pretty much how it works around here. Other writers may have their ‘crafting’ and their ‘revisions’ and ‘comprehensible subject matter’. Me, I’ve got my three steps. And a six-pack in the fridge, a TiVo full of reruns and Ruffles stacked high in the pantry. As Al Bundy, budding novelist might say: ‘Let’s write.

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “You Can’t Fight Process”

  1. Ryan Garns says:

    I hear ya. Writing is a lot like baking a pie… if I were a better writer, I’d be able to flesh out that analogy.

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