Another Brick In The Wall

Posted on April 12, 2013 by

In July of 2010 I wrote a piece about my emerging writing technique. I composed this after a few months of living in Cambodia with the idea of putting fingers to keyboard every day.

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For a while, it did work.

Despite the numerous distractions that Southeast Asia offers, I managed to get myself into a pretty solid routine. I think the most helpful thing I’ve done was treat writing time like a job.

Reading the 2010 piece after all this time, I think that there’s some good advice in it. Not all of it deals with the actal writing process as such, but it still rings true to me (though probably not for everyone).

One thing that has changed is that I don’t look at the writing process, or even the creative process at large, as some kind of mystical channelling of a “voice” from the great beyond. Now, it feels much more like designing and constructing a building.

A lot of this came to be because of my shifting spiritual outlook. I was raised Catholic and fell into a fairly unenthusiastic agnosticism after school. In more recent years I had an inkling of the strong possibility (or even likelihood) of some kind of sentient force connecting and guiding everything, I’m now pretty much an atheist.

My ideas don’t come from a higher power. They come from my own life experiences and readings. So the more I read or experience, the better my ideas will be.

Also, having gotten my hands dirty with editing (a process I really do not like), I can now see where scenes aren’t held up well, or that line of dialogue might not suit the character or the situation. And I’ve also discovered that I’m not as precious about “killing my darlings” as I thought I might be.

And just as when I shot my (still unfinished) short film many years ago, editing gave me stronger insights into the production process than actually doing the producing. The upside that writing has over filmmaking is that it is a hell of a lot easier to correct the mistakes you discover in the editing process.

The actual writing part is fun, it’s kind of a prolonged “blue sky session” where almost anything goes and you can throw all manner of cool stuff at the story. The more contextual that cool stuff is in the first place, the easier it becomes when you have to put the editor hat on, chip away at the extraneous stuff and add on more appropriate parts.

The feeling I get, from my comparatively limited experience of editing, is that it is much more of a precise process than writing. When discussing their process, writers generally say something like, “Well, here’s my technique that works well for me, but you should really experiment until you find a process that you feel comfortable with that works for you.”

The editing process is not as freewheeling, which is probably why I’m not a fan of it. It’s harder for me to sit in the chair and edit than it ever was to write. But it’s a vital part of getting the job done.

Posted in: Writing