A Behind the Scenes Look at My Writing Process

The thing is, no matter what I am doing, I am always thinking about writing. My writing starts when I wake up in the morning, fresh with dreams from the night before, wondering if anything that happened that night could be used in a story.

A Behind the Scenes Look at My Writing Process
A day in the life of a busy writer

9:00 am

Today is Sunday in the Philippines, but instead of sleeping in, I got up and went for a walk. I rolled out of bed at about 5:30 am, drank some cold water, put on my shoes, and hit the road. I had planned on stretching the walk out longer, but about halfway through my legs started getting numb and hurting. I either have neuropathy or a pinched nerve in my back, the doctor is not sure which.

So, I came home early.

After resting my legs, I ate a little breakfast and booted up my computer. You might be wondering: what does all that have to do with writing?

The thing is, no matter what I am doing, I am always thinking about writing. My writing starts when I wake up in the morning, fresh with dreams from the night before, wondering if anything that happened that night could be used in a story. Then, as I drink water and get ready to walk, I am thinking about what I am going to write later.

By the time I start walking, I usually have a topic to think about, so I start brainstorming. I think about what I would like to put in a story – thoughts and images that start to shape what I will put on the page later.

By the time 9:00 am rolls around, I have a good idea of what my story or article will look like.

I don’t make an outline. Everything lives in my brain, and I never know what will make it to the page until I start typing. The only planning I have done is brainstorming and maybe thinking up a few headlines. But once that first sentence appears the rest of the story falls into place like magic.

I wish I was more interesting and could say that I put a huge amount of work into writing, but it is a really easy process for me. I don’t stress. I just sit and write what comes in my mind. I haven’t done an outline since I used to be a freelancer and didn’t know any better.

I am a pantser through and through. I sit with a general idea and type whatever occurs to me at that moment.

Take my story on Medium today, for instance. It is a personal essay called, “Was It Wrong for Me to Marry a Much Younger Woman?” This morning as I was walking, different scenes played out in my mind of my wife and I’s relationship over the past 11 years, but it wasn’t until I sat down and started typing that I knew which direction the essay would take. It turned out to be a longer essay because I felt it was important to tell the story of how we met and the trials and tribulations of our early marriage.

For some reason, Medium chose not to distribute my essay, at least they haven’t yet, and it still irritates me that I never know why they would pass me over. This essay will die on the Medium vine with only a few views because they chose not to push it out to the greater audience.

That is how it goes sometimes. The essays and articles I think will do well don’t end up doing anything. It’s usually the ones I put in the most work on too. The ones that were easy and effortless seem to always go viral and I never understand why.

I guess the important thing you could learn about me today is that I never plan. Good for you if you do, but my mind has never done well operating that way. I do spend some time brainstorming in my free time, but it seems the less planning I do the better the story will do.

If you are a new writer, try just writing by the seat of your pants. Start with a basic idea and let your fingers run wild on the keyboard. Start with a sentence and see where the rest of the piece takes you. If you notoriously plan everything and aren’t seeing the results you want, try following your intuition and let your writing flow out of you.

Early in my Medium career, I wasn’t happy with the work I was putting out. Not only was it getting no views and reads, but I didn’t like how my writing flowed. I wanted my writing to sound like a conversation I was having with someone. I wanted it to flow as easily as talking with your best friend.

So I started letting intuition guide me and my writing got better every time I sat to write.

Let this be a lesson: not everything needs to be planned.


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