The Writing Process

After reading a post a few days ago by Nadia about the process that she goes through when writing (which was in turn inspired by Roger), it got me thinking.  Mostly it made me realize that I don’t have much of a process to tell you the truth.  I don’t write everyday; in fact, until a couple weeks ago I didn’t really write at all.  When I was young, which seems like ages ago, I wanted to be a writer among other things.  For whatever reason it didn’t happen, although I still like to write, it’s just much harder to make time for it now.

Sure, I have another blog where I’ve been writing for the past 5 months but it’s not really what I would consider “real” writing.  It’s mostly me passing along interesting news, perhaps offering my opinion on it or something of that sort, but there isn’t really any kind of process to it.  I mean I find some news, whether I go out and discover it or it is plopped down in my lap, and then I get on my computer and write.  There isn’t a whole lot of thought or planning that goes into it.  Which is a process in itself I suppose, although I suspect not a very good one.

With this blog I have started to write what I would consider more personal stories, things that are important or meaningful to me rather than what I think will be important to others.  This blog isn’t about getting as many readers as I can, it’s about expressing myself……if I happen to get a few readers along the way than that is just a pleasant bonus.  To my surprise I’ve realized that it’s also about discovering more about me.  I have only written a few posts but it’s amazing the things you learn about yourself when you see it written down in front of you.  There is no hiding from it when it’s there for the world to see.

So as I said I don’t have much of a process but I thought I would look at the process of my favorite writer, Tom Robbins.  If you have ever read anything by him, and by that I mean even a sentence or two, you can just sense that he must be doing things differently.  Every sentence that he writes is a story…..a poem…..or a song unto itself.  Here is the opening sentence from two of his novels:

The magician’s underwear has just been found in a cardboard suitcase floating in a stagnant pond on the outskirts of Miami.

— Another Roadside Attraction

It was a bright, defrosted, pussy-willow day at the onset of spring, and the newlyweds were driving cross-country in a large roast turkey.

— Skinny Legs And All

His writing is inventive and lyrical and truly wonderful.  The reason that I bring these opening lines up is because of the process.  This post is after all about the process.  While I would imagine the majority of writers have a fairly similar process; plan your story, write a chunk of it, go back and make some changes.  Write some more.  If you realize later in the story that you should have had a reference to something earlier for it to make sense…you go back and you add it in.  Until recently I didn’t know how Tom Robbins wrote, although I always suspected he must write differently because his books were so unique, so mesmerizing.

When Tom Robbins writes a book the process goes something like this.  To start he writes the first sentence….I’m no expert but I would guess that this is nothing out of the ordinary.  Then he rewrites that same sentence, fine tuning every word, making sure that it has a certain texture or feel.  Rewriting it until it is a novel unto itself.  It may take him hours to be satisfied that it is exactly what it was created to be, what it was meant to be.  When it is absolutely poetic, and only then, he adds a period.

Once that sentence is complete he rereads it, and then begins crafting the next sentence.  Rewriting it again and again until it flows from his lips like a river to the sea.  Then he adds the period.  I should mention that for each sentence that he writes he has no idea, nor does he care to know, what the next sentence will be about…let alone the next paragraph or the next chapter.  He says that he likes to paint himself into a corner and see how he can get out of it.  I have to say if that is the case then he is a master escape artist, Houdini would be jealous.

He continues this process until at some point he writes a sentence, reworks it, adjusts it, makes it sing and then adds a period.  At that point the book is done.  There is no going back and revising earlier pages or chapters or even sentences for that matter.  When you read a novel by Tom Robbins it is exactly as he wrote it, every sentence in the order that it was created, each one in the exact sequence that he thought them.

I will now go back to those two opening sentences from his novels that I showed you earlier.  Let’s focus on this one:

It was a bright, defrosted, pussy-willow day at the onset of spring, and the newlyweds were driving cross-country in a large roast turkey.

I’m fascinated that you can start a book with a sentence such as this one, driving cross-country in a large roast turkey, and have absolutely no idea where you are going with it.  Amazing.

As I get more comfortable writing again and spend more time doing it, I’m finding that I need to work on my process.  I’m not sure I’m capable of writing like Tom Robbins….honestly I doubt many are, but I will find my own process and when I do I’m sure my writing will improve.  I’m already starting the process, I’ve been working on my own creative writing project for the last few days, inspired by an article Tom Robbins wrote years ago.  It’s something I’ve thought about, and truly wanted to try, for years but have never had the determination to get the snowball rolling.  With this blog, and some of the great stories I’ve read on others blogs I think I’m ready to give that snowball a little nudge down the hill.

It’s good to be writing again.

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8 thoughts on “The Writing Process

  1. Aaah, this was so amazing! Thank you for introducing me earlier to Tom Robbins, I’m excited and love how much I’m learning! And, simply..I’m so glad you’re writing again! I’m looking forward to reading and enjoying more of your creative self!

    1. Thank you as always Nadia, although it isn’t about having lots of people read what I write, it means so much to me to have someone so nice as a loyal reader 🙂

      It really is wonderful to be writing again and I can’t wait to post my little creative writing project.

  2. Yes, it is good that you are writing again. You have me hooked already.

    You already have a process, you just don’t recognize it yet.

    Maybe you don’t need to.

    You already have a “way with words.” and that is a skill I wish I had more of.

  3. Your writing is compelling but to torture what is now a loathsome cliché: you had me at Tom Robbins. *laughing*

    Seriously, his writing changed my life. Specifically “Jitterbug Perfume”. The concepts in that book are just too important to miss. His exceptional and provocative writing style just takes the reader into orbit. It made me ask myself whether I was truly living. I concluded I hadn’t (until then) even known was “living” even meant. Talk about yer paradigm shift!

    Anyway, I’m glad to have stumbled over here to your blog. Look forward to reading more.

    1. Ha. That’s great.

      Jitterbug Perfume was the first Tom Robbins book I read, given to me by a good friend, and is still my favorite book EVER. Although, honestly I’d take Tom Robbins worst book over most authors best books.

      Be sure to check out my little Tom Robbins creative writing project when I manage to finish it, I hope you will enjoy. I’m so glad to find someone who likes his work, actually most people I know have never heard of him, which is a shame.

  4. I think he’s like a secret treasure, and you need to join a cosmic club or something before you stumble onto him. Like you, I had no idea he even existed until a friend of mine loaned me ‘jitterbug”.

    Ever since then, I’ve been loaning my copy to anyone and everyone (sometimes having to buy another just so that I could have it to read again). Even made promises to anyone who bought it, that if they didn’t like it, I’d reimburse them. (Man, i should have been in sales). Anyway, I didn’t have to deliver on that promise even once.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with your writing project.

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