Writing is the best. But as anyone who writes for a living will tell you, it also can be the worst. The deadlines! The word counts! The interviews that seemed fine at the time but have no decent quotes! Writing as a profession means composing through sleeplessness, idealessness and cleverlessness. It can be monotonous.
These things sometimes distract from the wonder that is the writing process. And is it a truly amazing wonder. Crafting a piece of work, using only brain juice and finger power, that can move people, inspire them, entertain or even change someone, is a sort of miracle. Most weeks I write between seven and ten stories, and believe me, they almost all feel like miracles by the end. This is due to a series of tiny, brilliant moments that happen during the writing process. No matter what kind of -lessness one is writing through, these stages in the process begin to happen, and you’re in it. You’re wowed. You’re part of a miracle.
Now, everyone’s writing process is different, so I suspect everyone has different wow moments as they plod along, and perhaps for some it varies every time. My writing process is fairly regimented, and thus, so are my favorite wows. Here they are:
- Making it just past the crest I outline everything. In order to get anywhere, I have to see the entire trajectory of a story from beginning. So the first part of my writing process is full of organizing. Puzzling. Pushing and pulling ideas and logic and quotes and transitions around on a page until they start to mean something. It’s uphill work. It’s brain-hurting work. And sometimes, I get it all how I think it should go, and I try to start smoothing it all together, and it just doesn’t flow. No flow means more puzzling.
And then, all at once, it does. It flows. At that point, there may be an hour of writing ahead of me, but all the work is done. It’s all downhill from there. And it’s pure fun.
- Falling in love with a phrase Everyone once in a while a writer will cobble of few words together, or maybe use one word in a new way, and will absolutely delight herself. Look at this phrase! It’s so charming! It’s so perfect for this very sentence in this very story! Where did it come from? Much Googling will commence, and if it all works out well, it’s just a clever new thing that belongs just to you and just to this story, and soon, you’ll get to share it.
I recently did this to myself when using “somethings else” as the plural of “something else” in, of all places, a Facebook post. It just charmed my own socks off. No idea if it is correct or usable. Definitely will try it somewhere soon.
- The epiphany of the end My outlining process includes a fully drafted lede, sections, some transitions, quotes and no ending. Some writers start at the end and write toward it, but for me, it’s just the opposite. I never know quite how the piece will conclude, what meaningful takeaway these facts and ideas will add up to, until they are all in place. As I’m stitching them all together, or even after I’ve written the whole piece and step away for a bit, it comes in a rush of inspiration. Aha! The end! This is the end! It’s not some sort of divine, random inspiration, but a logical one. It’s realizing what the final piece of the puzzle must be and snapping it into place.
Earlier this week, I had already started packing my things up at a coffee shop, having given up on figuring out an ending in one sitting, when it hit me. With my coat and hat on, and purse on my shoulder, I wrote the conclusion while standing at high top table near the door. I definitely looked like an idiot, but it was a deeply satisfying ending. So worth it.
- The magic of “that just happened” When a story goes really well, it feels like something magical just happened. Especially when a story surprises you in the middle, or was a particularly tough to piece together, it seems as if the unique work you just produced couldn’t be replicated at any other time or any other place. The stars aligned for a moment, and you made it happen. Lucky you.
This logic, I confess, is ridiculous. As has been proven by thousands of writers with crashed hard drives and fried motherboards, lighting can always strike twice when you’re God and you’re on a deadline. But that shouldn’t take away from feeling that way. It’s okay to relish in the idea that it coming together perfectly was somehow connected to a magical moment in space and time. It just feels that way. And I like it. So I’m keeping it.
For me, these are the runners’ high of writing. They’re why I do it, and are the rewards at the end of every long procrastination and arduous interview process. They are, to me, what writing actually is. I imagine for others, writing is a collection of other delightful and satisfying moments. Anyone care to share?