“I don’t know any writer who’s happy. But what else is there to do?”
— Natalie Goldberg’s friend Eddie, quoted in Thunder and Lightning : Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft
I’ve been working on a white paper this week, and am going through the dreaded Writing Process.
Since I began this full-time word wrangling gig last November I’ve been observing my writing processes, and this seems to be how I do it:
- Receive assignment
- Diligently perform necessary background work (research, interviews, etc.)
- Review background materials in a desultory way, get bored, resort to skimming
- Resume procrastinating
- Deadline now very near: attack background materials again, desperately trying to wring a coherent narrative from them
- Flounder hopelessly
- Just before the piece is due, everything snaps into place; enter strange Zen state of calm and exhilaration
- Write draft
I find this process hateful, and am trying to change it into something…sane. But the possibility that this is simply how I work haunts me. Maybe floundering hopelessly is a necessary stage for me. Maybe I need the irrational panic. Maybe all that procrastination gives my subconscious a chance to do whatever it does that allows me to write that draft in one adrenaline-fueled last-minute burst.
This is the weird thing about writing, as opposed to other kinds of work: I don’t really understand how I do what I do. Maybe I’ll figure it out someday.
I was thinking about my high school journalism teacher the other day, and realized with a shock that I was excatly the same way back them. Oy.