The Nuts and Bolts of Writing

Photograph © Beowulf Sheehan www.beowulfsheehan.comQuite recently, someone asked me about my “process.” This someone wasn’t asking about the creative parts—the meandering through the dark, schlepping a bag full of puzzle pieces and seeking out the elusive slots where they might fit—but quite literally about what I do during my waking hours, which hours those might be, and when and if I stop for snacks. She was asking about the nuts and bolts.

What I wanted to say is that I know nothing (and that of course I stop for snacks). I’m just winging it. I’m still waiting to be found out. Still, I wrote 336 pages that will be printed and bound and on (some) shelves in just a few weeks, which is something one teensy bit better than nothing.

1. Get dressed every day (except when you feel like the very heart of what you’re writing is delicately wound into the fiber of your socks and robe)

2. Stop and move for food (except when you must, just must, have your fingers centimeters from your computer at all times)

3. Exercise in any form: stand up, walk, run, go to a yoga class (except when all the jostling around risks dispersing your very precious thoughts, and then stay put, very very put)

4. Get by with a little help from your friends (except when talking to anyone at all about anything at all will sully everything, make you forget or derailed or soft or sleepy)

5. Find inspiration in art, music, literature (except when they might be toxic to your work and undo all your efforts to find voice)

There you have it. Fool’s gold.

In the end, I think, anything you can do is my actual answer.

Also: do the best you can, however you can, every day that you can. Take care of your body, your wrists, knees and eyes. Take care of your computer, and back up what matters. Take care of your bills because Verizon doesn’t care that you’re writing the Next Great American Novel. Take care of the people that love you. They will be there when you pick your head up, but only if you play your cards right.

The process is long, there is no end to it—at least, not really—so don’t be dramatic and pull eight all-nighters just to show us that you can. Or do, if you can. Do.

The Visiting Scribes series was produced by the Jewish Book Council‘s blog, The Prosen People.

Posted on March 29, 2013

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