Monday, September 3, 2012

The Process Shall Set Your Writing Free

Process sounds antithetical to the creative process. What  could be more bruising to creativity than rules and required steps? And yet, most professional writers have developed detailed, regular routines, and, chances are, your favorite stories were created within an organized framework. (To see an example for process, take a look at Rewrite 3 - Structure, Structure, Structure.) Some of the rewards of using established processes provides are:
  • Commitment to regular practice - A fundamental aspect of writing routines is putting the time in, day after day. Not only do these minutes and hours add up, but they keep your tools sharpened. No one would expect a musician to take a week off from practicing and return immediately to concert quality. Writers are just as vulnerable to getting out of shape if they skip their sessions.
  • Bite-sized chunks - When you have a process, you can break it down into pieces that are small enough to avoid being overwhelmed.
  • Paths to mastery - You can only master a writing approach if you 1) specify it and 2) evaluate it.
  •  Reference points for experimentation - You can only break up your routine if you have one. And you can only get future value from trying something new if the new approach can be evaluated against a standard and then integrated into your routine.
  • Freedom from dithering - In July I wrote about how dithering wrecks productivity (and its solutions, such as choosing your task the day before and understanding why you dither). Established process point toward the exact work you should be doing the next day, so they help you move from dithering to deciding.
Now, I am the first to admit that you don't mess with what's working. If your muse sits down next to you and begins dictating an extraordinary story, it is not the time to say, "Excuse me, I'm doing the grammar check on chapter five today. Could you come back tomorrow?" (Although, I probably would get to that grammar check as soon as the muse slipped away.) But structure, once all the grumbling and resistance is over with, usually enhances a creative endeavor.

I'll go further and say documented processes, which obviously can help productivity, provided permission and direction for creative work by distracting and satisfying the critic in your head. In my next post, I'll provide some suggestions on how to document your approaches in a way that provides focus, while helping you to innovate and improve.

What are your go-to processes for writing?

Does structure inhibit or free your imagination?

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