Our house guests returned to their home on Wednesday and we’ve been in recovery mode since then. As much as we love our family, sometimes it’s nice to see them return to their home. I am sure we gave our guests a great visit, but that time is over and other projects are calling.
I’ve been wanting to get back to writing and actually sat down the other night thinking I’d write something. Then sanity took over and I went back out to watch TV instead. All the activities this month have left me mentally exhausted so I’ve been as my father would have said, “Letting my brains slop into the back of my head and not think about anything.”
As my brain slops around back there, some thoughts do percolate up from time to time I think as about some bit of writing. I did go back and review the comments from last Sunday’s post and count what folks said they’d like me to write about. The orphan trains and trees came out on top. Self-publishing and the blog post each got a mention. I did get more than one suggestion that I should write about all of them, or any of them.
So, I guess it’s onward to everything.
Writing for me takes place in a number of phases and each needs to happen before a final piece actually makes it through my fingers and onto this screen. There are four basic phases for me:
1. Breathing in, gathering creative energy.
2. Research, thinking, questioning.
3. Sitting at the keyboard typing.
Breathing in is that process where I let the energy of the world enter in my being. It’s a time where I am just in a place that can inspire me, comfort me, heal me or take me out of the pains and trials of everyday life. Sounds mystical. I do this by doing things like hiking in the woods, going to a museum, attending a play, working in my shop, going to the men’s group at church, or having lunch with a friend. It’s a vital part of writing, but it purposely avoids writing or thinking about writing. It’s simply a time to breathe deep and let your soul fill.
The next step depends on the kind of writing I am going to do. Sometimes I think a lot about a piece of writing. Sometimes I do formal, scholarly research on my subject. Sometimes I just look up a website or read a news story. Sometimes I write and outline. What I do during this phase varies a lot depending on what I am writing. For example to write about red wood trees I might look at a picture or two, think of times I’ve hiked beneath them before sitting down to write. For a project like the orphan train, I’ll want to read a bit more in-depth, gather a few references, think about my reaction to the play, write a brief outline and so on. This process could take hours, which is why you’re not going to read about trains today. That is still a work in progress.
Actually sitting down at the keyboard is the easiest part of the whole process. If I’ve done the first two steps right, keyboarding is simple. All I need is my word process up on the screen, body position in correct ergonomic form and perhaps other windows open with all my notes and references. From there, it’s just work.
Editing is a pain, but has to be done. For blog posts, I’ll do a quick editing pass and I’ll ask Heather to do an editing pass. I have three goals in editing: Reduce the word count; correct obvious spelling and grammar errors; and try to say something worth reading. Never easy, but likely the most important step.
And then I think of the trees. Standing at the base of a red wood I am amazed how big it is and how tall it grows. Walking through the grove you can see where fire has touched them. Then the wind picks up and you can see tops sway.
Letting my eyes drop to the forest floor, I see a small sapling poking it’s way out of the leaves. Each year it grows a little. Each year it’s a little different.
Writing is a bit like that for me – each time my fingers hit the keys, something is a little different. Hopefully a little better. Hopefully.
Till next week,