Apr 132015

Nut graf: Find your own stinkin’ secret sauce.

How I do it doesn't make any difference.

How I do it doesn’t make any difference.

I got into a conversation with a fellow writer, and we were comparing projects. She’s working on a screenplay and I’m drafting out a novel.

Then she asked me about my work habits. Like, how do I get the stuff down?

It’s a question all writers ask. All creators, in fact. We’re all comparing ourselves with others, or at least looking for that secret sauce. Find whatever it is that boosts productivity, improves your work, makes you fit, trim and attractive to the opposite sex.

Here’s my writing practice, in case you’re interested:

– Banging the stuff out on paper, on a vintage typewriter, standing up.
– Throwing the completed pages in a box.
– Forgetting about those completed pages. At least that’s the theory.
– Outlining as I go, developing characters as I go.
– I leave a wide margin on the right hand side of the page for markup, and this is used after I finish with the draft. Theoretically.

“Who don’t you use a computer?” my friend asked “Wouldn’t it be easier?”

Uhh, yeah. It would. But somehow I get a better connection to my work when I bang it out like that. Maybe it’s me, but the only way I can get an even better connection is by writing it out longhand.

Besides, you can’t slap a computer. For me, the act of writing is very physical. Violent, even. It’s noisy, bloody, messy. But that’s personal.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend anyone do it this way. In fact, when I talk about methods, ignore everything I say. Find your own stinkin’ secret sauce.

How I do it doesn’t matter. Creativity is like the snowflake. There are plenty of creative people and projects out there, but they’re all different. To each his own, and whatever works works.

Right now I’m at 31,500 words, or 157 pages. Most of it will be thrown out, but that’s part of the process too. But again, how I do it doesn’t matter.

I try not to get too bogged down in tools and methods. My emphasis is on getting the stuff out, particularly in a first draft. Your first try at playing a new song is equally messy. You slop your way through it any way you can, whether it’s by playing to a YouTube video or trying it out on stage with people watching. How you do it doesn’t matter anyway.

I’ll admit, though, I did my preliminary tool-gathering before I started writing. A new ribbon, which took all my online resources to find. Two reams of cheap copy paper. Another 300-pack of index cards. A brand-new composition notebook. Binder clips, rubber bands, blue high-lighters, staples and all that junk. Storage boxes to throw my drafts in after I’m done with them. A spreadsheet to track my progress.

Now, if I couldn’t find a ribbon, for example, it should not make a lick of difference. There are other tools at my disposal. Pens, pencils, legal pads, computer, Libre Office, emacs, Scrivener.

But again, that doesn’t matter. Working on the project, moving the needle every day and completing it are the only things worth talking about.

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Jan 032013

Man, if I had the right word processor I could write that great novel that’s in me. Or if I had the right software I could record that album at home. Or I can be more productive with that big-bucks system I saw advertised online.

Sound familiar? To listen to folks talk, you can’t be creative without the right tools. By implication, they’re trying to buy creativity itself.

What you have in you was given to you before birth. As far as tools, they’re a lot less important than the gift. You can do as good a recording job with the free Audacity program, and you can write just as well with a #2 pencil and legal pad as you can on that hot word processor.