On Writing: how to write?

Last Updated on

On Writing

Asking the question what makes you a writer? last week has led me to think more about what, and how, I write. Seeing others discuss word counts and editing and targets has made me wonder more about process. How do I write? and am I doing it right?!

Yesterday I came across this quote:

        What is the best way to write? Each of us has to find her own way by writing. Writing
        teaches writing. No one can tell you your own secret.
        Gail Sher

It really resonated with me; like a lot of things in life there is no one way to write. There are techniques to be learnt, processes to sharpen; continuous development. But there is no real right, or wrong, as to how to go about it.

While I compare (and berate) myself, wonder if I’m doing it ‘right’ and feel that perhaps I should be following some prescribed pattern; really, I should just be getting on with it, and writing!

So, how do I write?

I am great at to-lists, at noting down ideas and thoughts (haphazardly, admittedly!) and planning ahead for the blog; I am absolutely rubbish at actually getting anything done unless I have a deadline! A self-imposed one will do, but I have to have a deadline. Or I faff spectacularly and procrastinate with the best of them.

Deadline in place, I will sit down (preferably with a cup of tea and silence, I can dream!) to write and invariably stare at a blank sheet of (virtual) paper; wondering what on earth possessed me to set (or agree to) the deadline.

I need that first sentence, those elusive opening words. Without them I am lost in a sea of random thoughts and slippery ideas that I just can’t quite catch.

But, once I get that sentence? Then, I write. And it flows. Often in an entirely different direction than I thought it would. My perspective will shift; words will form themselves into unexpected sentences, paragraphs will develop a life of their own.

I write quickly, rarely spending more than an hour or so on a post. I polish, but I don’t over edit; if I work and re-work too often I find that I lose the essence of what I was saying; the words become dull, clichéd and safe.

I often wonder where inspiration comes from. When I sit down to write, with nothing but a headline, the vaguest of ideas; where do I find the words?

I still feel inordinately pleased, and surprised, when a poem materialises in front of me. I take great satisfaction in an opinion piece taking shape, as the argument flows with focus and sense. A grin will spread across my face as I recall a special day or a recent adventure and the narrative dances across the page, capturing the feelings and fun and memories.

I certainly feel the need to hone my skills; to work on my style, sharpen my voice, to leave my comfort zone more often and stretch myself; to justify my bold (presumptuous?!) statement that I am a writer.

But, I am going to do all that by writing. I am going to teach myself; through hard work, determination and practice. I am going to read, read and read some more. I am going to try new things. I am going to welcome comment, embrace criticism, learn from failure.

And I am going to enjoy it. I am going to find my own secret.

How do you write? Do you have a process, rituals? Or do you just play it by ear and see what happens?

Muddled Manuscript
Mama and More

Follow on Bloglovin

13 thoughts on “On Writing: how to write?”

  1. I love your can-do, will-do attitude in this post. And I’m like you – once that first sentence is down, everything begins to flow. That first sentence is such a frame of reference for what follows…. :o) #whatimwriting

  2. ‘Process’ is a word I hear bandied about a lot by people: the ‘creative process’, the ‘writing process’, ‘[my foolproof process for] how to make a million dollars from blogging’.

    My conclusion: most writers have *a* process but I don’t think there is one definitive process that works for everyone. I do have a process of sorts, which generally involves writing either my first sentence or my last sentence (or both) first, and then allowing words to flow from there without too much of a structure (although I often jot down notes so I don’t forget key points I want to hit). I then walk away, make a cup of coffee (or leave the post overnight) and then do two edits – one a ‘beauty pass’ to look for overall flow, tighten up and cut out bits where I’ve drifted off on tangents, then a ‘grammar pass’ where I seek out typos and errors. But that’s about it. I’m experienced enough now that I know when I need to be strict with myself and when I can just go with the flow.

  3. I love the word ‘faff’ just so perfect! I tend to write quickly in short bursts and like you don’t spend much more than an hour on posts at a time. I find it easier to work this way with the family life we have. It will be interesting to see how it evolves once my son is in school next year. I love that quote very much xx

  4. You and I are so similar lovely. That first sentence is vital, and once it’s spot on the rest of the words often just flow… there’s nothing worse than having a mere hour in which to write and the words not coming out of my head! I’m really enjoying trying different things at the mo. I may have just written a piece of flash fiction for #ThePrompt this week ;-) #allaboutyou #whatimwriting

  5. Great piece! I write quite similarly. I set a deadline (because without one, I just dawdle) and that first sentence is key. I try to plan, but my inspirations vary–from the faintest blips to the loudest roar. I keep a notebook with me and jot sentences and words down, and that’s how my pieces of writing come about.

  6. I love this post! The positivity and the purpose and the exploration of an idea is fab. The quote is fantastic and really strikes a chord for me this week as I’m (as you know) wondering about the time I devote to all the different forms of writing I dabble in. I do feel I’m finding my way to being a writer through the act of writing.

    I’m not sure I really have a process other than setting myself challenges and targets – but what those targets are vary a lot. I’ve done ‘write and post a blog post in 30 mins’ (because I tend to take too long on posts), ‘Don’t really write anything this week’, ‘don’t do any linkys this month and focus on your book’ and lots of word count challenges. They all push me on and teach me things about my writing!

    The way this post is written makes me think you already have found your own secret – or one of them. It sounds like you are going to have fun honing your writing abilities though. Thanks for linking to #WhatImWriting – I’m loving the way writing about writing is making you want explore your writing side even more! xx

  7. Yay for being a writer! No escaping now. Another excellent post. I think you’ve already found a voice, you just need to speak a little louder and maybe stretch yourself. I’ve seen more poetry appearing in your posts recently, and that’s great. It’s all about trying things and seeing what works. I’m terrified of rejection, but I’m not scared of writing stuff. I’ll keep talking forever, if you let me.
    Once again, thank you for linking up with #whatimwriting x

  8. Your process sounds very similar to mine :) The drudgery of too much editing especially resonates with me – I tend to just rattle off short pieces once inspiration hits. Novel writing’s proving a whole different ball game though, and I’m having to learn much more patience and tolerance for reworking things.

    In terms of the right way to write, I essentially think it’s a lot like parenting. You can listen to other people’s ideas and read books of tips but ultimately you have to take the plunge and learn by doing it. And you find a way that’s right for you – and right for your kids too, who of course will probably all be different themselves. My limited experience of writing so far has taught me that I do have ways I like to work, but that changes depending on the project I’m working on – it has to.

    Good luck finding what works for you – exciting times! xx

  9. I’m definitely a play it by ear type. You can bet your bottom dollar that if I try and set aside time for certain tasks, something will come up and lead me in a different direction!

    Yesterday evening I had set aside an hour to browse other blogs and catch up on comments, from nowhere an idea came to me for your next #theprompt and I had to write! At least it wasn’t time wasted :)

  10. Brilliant post. Go for it!
    For a while I judged myself by what other writers did until I realised, like you, it’s MY journey. Only I can write how I write and no one can tell me how to do it. I think this writing lark is all about learning, and the learning never stops.
    I don’t have a process as such but if an idea strikes I let it fester for a while and see if I can add to it. If not it becomes a poem or flash fiction. More ideas sprouting out from the original means I can have a short story or perhaps even a novel. With the novel I’m writing at the moment I spent weeks writing ideas down on post-its. By the time I was ready to start I had 50 post-its. Organising them was not fun but it’s all part of the process. I really loved this post of yours Sara, it’s made me think more about my process! :)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: