I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn that I don’t write books like most people. Other writers tell me they maintain a fairly slow and steady pace, chipping away a thousand words at a time for months upon months. Years, even. They are perfectly capable of submitting detailed outlines to editors and of making a legit Table of Contents they’ll stick to as their book unfolds.
Not me. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the way I write, in all its glory. (Hint: there’s not really any glory. But there is a rainbow keyboard.)
First, I go hunting. I gather up all the scraps and bits and snippets I’ve written on my phone, on my laptop, and in my notebooks. Podcast pieces, class transcripts, and poems. Inspiring words I’ve written as responses to particularly moving e-mails.
All of it. Everything I’ve written since the last time I released a book. I let myself be overwhelmed by the immensity of it. That is, in some part, the point.
Then I edit. I cull. Ruthlessly and harshly, with a loving eye toward only the pieces that want to be a part of this particular project.
I weave my work like other people weave yarn, turning words into chapters, and chapters into the book.
It’s not logical or linear. (Currently, my Table of Contents is not in any way related to what I’ve written. It will be by the end, I promise.)
It’s entirely intuitive, and it’s not a bit like any class or system I’ve ever taken told me to do. I have a great deal of guilt, for example, about having edited 6,000 words the other day but ‘not doing enough’ because I didn’t also handle social media and the laundry and the grocery shopping. Yesterday, I did the social media and the grocery shopping, then felt guilty about having edited too quickly. Translation: my brain is still an asshole.
I weave quickly. My latest book went from 15,000 words to 30,000 in under a week.
It’s at 41,000 words and growing, as of this writing, and will keep on ticking upward as I add new pieces to fill gaps, make clearer points, and otherwise needle away at my own deadline.
Because I make my own deadline.
There’s no outer force pushing me to write — only my inner knowing that it’s time. This is the season to get it out, much like a pregnant woman knows when it’s time to push, only without forceps, and with way more alcohol.
I’ve made space for this to happen: no coaching calls, no Hermione D. Granger to walk and bathe and feed, no outstanding deadlines or commitments outside of my own.
I’m writing for me, for you, because the act of writing itself is one of the most joyful ones I know.
I still don’t know how it will turn out. I don’t know how much it will cost. I don’t know whether you’ll love it or hate it.
…and still I write.
Because it’s in me, it’s the thing that lives in my bones and that desperately wants to be out, away, and in the world.
I’m honoring my voice even as I don’t know what the fuck it’s doing or why the fuck it’s doing it.
So if you’ve ever felt like your process is TOO something — too slow, too fast, too linear, too logical, too uncertain, too messy, too vibrant, too fast-paced — there’s only one question to answer.
Are you doing the work? If you are, the process is perfect.
My process is a hybrid of labor pains and making space, like if a doula and a yoga teacher got together and had a happy hippie book baby, but they invited whales to come splash around on the beach so we would all know we’re on the right track.
Your process is just that…yours.
Fuck the plan, fuck the requirements and the endless planning, the labeling and trying to do it the “right” way.
YOUR way is the right way.
Here’s to your process, friend.
P.S. Don’t drink the unicorn blood. And put down that horcrux.