My Process (aka Whatever Works)

I always find it fascinating to read about the writing process for other writers. Some have certain hours during which they write. Others have a page or word count goal that they must reach each day before they allow themselves to quit. Some write at a desk, others on a laptop while curled up in bed. As I read these tales of productivity, I can find something in just about every one that I use as well. You see, my process has evolved over the years into what I like to call Whatever Works That Day.

As the years have passed, I’ve found my attention span shrinking. So I tend to skip around a bit as the day goes along. I’ll illustrate how I’ve been organizing my days this week, for instance. I have three upcoming deadlines: a final proof on my October Harlequin book is due back this Friday; a partial on another Harlequin book is due Monday; and a bunch of short stories I’m judging for a contest are due back a week from Friday but I have to FedEx them back, thus they need to be sent back by next Wednesday. To keep myself from zoning out doing one thing for two long, I’ve had my laptop set up on my breakfast counter where I stand and proof a few pages at a time. Then I’ll go to the dining room table and judge a couple of short stories. Then I plop down on the sofa and write on the partial longhand while watching TV. This crazy method serves several purposes:

  1. I don’t get bored or zone out working on any one thing for too long at a time.
  2. I’m making progress toward all three deadlines.
  3. I’m getting a little bit of exercise by moving from one work station to another, standing at one of them, instead of sitting in one spot for too long.
  4. There’s a bit of reward built into the writing portion. I’ve mentioned this works for me before, how I write X amount and then I get to watch a segment of a TV show that would naturally fall between commercials; then I have to write X amount again.

On days like yesterday, when I had to run some errands, I deliberately did some of my proofing before I ran the errands so that the errand trip served as a break from work and not just a way to delay starting on it. Sometimes I’ll do this with exercise — I’ll work for an hour or so, then stop and take a 30-minute to hour-long walk, then come back and work some more.

The view from one of my favorite writing spots.

Sometimes I use a change of scenery to jump-start my writing. I find being near water relaxing and peaceful, so I’ll either take a notepad and pen down to the local park and sit at a picnic table or pack my beach chair and umbrella over to the beach and alternate writing with staring at the waves.

I remember when I was first starting out and attending conferences, soaking up all the words of wisdom of writers who’d been at this writing game a lot longer, that I’d hear all these “right ways” to be productive. Now, about 20 years in, I realize that there is no “right” way. It truly is whatever works on any given day to get words on the page. And it’s okay if it differs from one day to the next. In this one instance, it’s not the journey that matters but the destination.

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