How Do We Write?

Oh, joy!  I went back into my RSS feeds, in order to come up to speed for blogging, and found this post from Cal Newport about How Novelists Get Work Done.  Newport is — to my great interest — always concerned not just with productivity, but especially deep productivity.  He thinks a lot about how we get deep work done.  I always find him interesting, but sometimes he frustrates me, in that in his definition of deep concentrated work he doesn’t seem to notice just how different different kinds of deep work can be. 

In the blog I link to above, he’s thinking about the rituals that some novelists use in order to start working and keep working, and wondering what their techniques can offer him (especially in the attention to physical detail, which he’s been ignoring).  Of great interest also are the comments, which come from (mostly) thoughtful readers from many disciplines. 

So, anyway.  The writers.

I notice that I have different rituals depending on what kind of writing I do.  Academic writing I draft directly into the computer, though I work from not only handwritten mindmaps, but also handwritten 3×5 notes.  Then I print it out and edit hardcopy.  Fiction and poetry, however, I write longhand.  With fountain pen.  THEN I input it into the computer, and print it out, and edit the hard copy.  I cannot write poetry and fiction and creative non-fiction onto the computer. 

But I’m blogging directly onto the computer, and I’ll edit on the computer. Same with my ezine.  (Sign up for your own biweekly copy here!)

Writers!  What are the rituals you observe?  Do they work? 

Other details from me?  Though I often work by throwing notes on the floor, along with books I’m using, I have to start from an organized place.  I don’t need total tidiness, but I do need general organizational sanity.

And I need a view.  It’s not a distraction.  It’s the place I put my eyes when I’m thinking.

Here’s my view these days:  there’s so much light outside, my office seems dark.  It’s not.  But they keep it very shiny here.


 view out my window

5 Replies on “How Do We Write?

  1. My writing rituals are nearly the same as yours–down to what I write longhand and what I type on the computer–but the new addition to my routine is that I announce my goals ahead of time. Especially when I’m balancing a lot of different tasks or parts of my life, I find that announcing what I’ll be working on (and how much I hope to accomplish) makes me feel some accountability toward the writing that is otherwise for myself. If I say I’m going to get a long poem revised, or get a certain number of words written, I’m less likely to be distracted by lesson planning, reading, or even family. For some reason, it doesn’t matter that there’s probably nobody on facebook or twitter who cares whether I meet that goal I mentioned in the morning–knowing I said it is enough to keep me on target, mostly!

    On a side note, I learned that my highschool students had no idea what I meant by “writing longhand”, even though most of them draft their poetry on paper instead of computer!

    1. Jennifer, you announce on Facebook and Twitter? I hadn’t seen those posts. I’ll look for them.

      And I like that idea a LOT. OK if I share it?

  2. When I’m doing creative work I need a view, too. This is why my desk used to be under the window in the studio. Once I moved it, it became a place to hold things over creating at it. Of course, I’m doing bead stringing, painting, and the like so I don’t use the desk as much, but the view is still needed for me. I see it in the same vein as how the water near me can’t be landlocked – I can’t be wall-locked and be creatively at my best.

  3. Pamela — I know that many people CAN’T have a view, of they get distracted. I can indeed work without a window, but I don’t like it. I like space. I feel like my thoughts can go further. Even trees will work, and I love them dearly, but vastness REALLY works best. Ocean, as you say. Or desert!