Perhaps the bits of creative process I’m talking about today are unique to pansters (I doubt it) or so common that no one thinks to mention them (possible), or because everyone’s process is so different, I’m the only one that experiences these (doubtful). There are aspects to the creative process that I find intriguing, frustrating, and necessary.
No one ever told me that I would go on binges of research, sensory input, a process of voracious feeding that encompasses everything from fine art to YouTube. In addition to the main line of research, tangential topics are also pursued with avid interest. No one told me that the longer I neglected to balance the input of life and senses with the output of words, the more single-minded this pursuit would become until it would completely take over my waking hours for weeks on end.
No one ever told me that there would come a time in the creative process when I would put my pen down and not pick it up again for sometimes two or three weeks. I write every day, both on key board and by hand. For it to stop and for there to be an almost secretive sense of hoarding words was a startling experience. It certainly doesn’t fit in with what I believe about producing on a regular basis whether I feel like it or not. This weird little turn out in the road would stump me until it happened three or four times and then just became an acknowledged part of my process. When I start hoarding words and want to clean the whole house, it’s time to clear my schedule. A novel is coming.
No one ever told me that sometimes I would be overly emotional for no reason and, in turning to my journal for relief, would find myself writing a story just a few paragraphs into a normal entry—and that it would not stop until it was finished. These are usually the most poignant bits of flash fiction, essay, and short story I’ve written to date, and complete surprises. I had no idea I would sometimes capture a character’s emotion before the character or their story.
No one told me that my most deep-seated need in life (to write) would be a non-event for those closest to me. Of the 10 or so family members I communicate with most often, only two have read my stories. Only two have any interest in the thing that drives my being and neither of them are under my roof. Writer friends and critique groups are priceless and the close friendships I’ve made through them are sustaining in such necessary ways. They let my family off the hook.
No one told me of the deep contentment I feel in the midst of a writing session. Whether it’s going well or not, the act of putting a story on paper, one word at a time, brings a joy not repeated elsewhere. Though I resist as strongly as any other writer, once I’m putting those words down, my world comes right and life is good.
No one told me that I would flip the “normal” process of struggling through a draft and then enjoy the edits. Drafts are easy and generally take thirty days or less for me. Edits are painful, slow, and agonizing. I am apparently Queen of Opposite Day in the writing world.
No one told me that stories can die. Sometimes it’s because what I thought was a novel is really a short story. Sometimes it’s because there’s a fatal flaw in the premise. Thankfully, I’ve only experienced one major story death in the last few years, but they are painful and unsettling.