Three months ago I decided, for the first time in my adult life, to approach writing seriously; it has been a struggle, but one I’ve enjoyed. I never could have foreseen the metamorphosis my creative process would undergo in such a short period of time.
I was inspired to start writing by an old computer game. I was struggling with the game when I had a sudden flash of inspiration for a story. There was nothing out of the ordinary about this. I have had brief moments of inspiration in the past; never in the past had I acted upon them. This time would prove different. Instead of fading away, as all others had, this idea kept coming back to me. I could do nothing to escape it. It consumed me.
Looking back, on a subconscious level, I think I know the real reason my other ideas died. My lifelong struggle with grammar has made me scared to express myself in text. The strength of this particular idea excited me enough to push aside my reservations.
One night I finally said, “I have to do this.” I dropped everything and typed out the first few pages of my story. It had been well over a decade since I felt such joy as I did that night. For me, the act of creating is calming. It’s a way to combat my stress problem. As an adult my main form of stress release to this point has been to watch a movie, play a videogame, read a book, or do some exercise; these activities I took part in for the purpose of stress relief caused me more stress. Why? Because I worried that my hobbies were nothing more than “time killers” with no tangible benefits (other than the exercise). Writing, to me, feels more important than these other hobbies. I doubt I will ever write a story that makes me a dime, yet the potential for it to happen allows me to more easily justify (to myself) the time I spend doing it.
I had started the writing process and was having a tremendous amount of fun. This lasted until I first read my work; I knew the story was a grammatical disaster. I am a product of the American school system. At no point in my schooling did I have ever have more than a rudimentary understanding of grammar. I managed to pass English as a C student by doing exceedingly well in vocabulary and spelling tests; grammar tests generally went so poorly that if I managed a passing grade I considered it a victory.
At this point, my desperation mounting, I made a terrible decision. I started writing only the simplest of sentences; the goal, of course, being to minimize my potential for mistakes. Obviously this made my writing terribly monotonous. I realized I was going to have to seriously commit to improving my grammar if I was going to pen a quality work.
I took to the internet to find help. I found a creative writing message board on another forum I frequent and began lurking there. The board was barely active, but grammar questions came up frequently. Eventually I stumbled upon the Purdue OWL website. For months it served as my number one resource. Recently I purchased a grammar manual; it is now the main source of my studies. I have also made a point of copying, by hand, The Elements of Style; I do this for one hour every other day. I feel that my grammar has improved tremendously, but I still have a long way to go. I kindly request any grammarians reading this to inform me of the errors present in this post.
When I first started writing my story I used only my word processor. In the months since I have switched to pen and paper. I find that setting at my computer there are too many potential distractions for me to properly focus on my writing. I also prefer striking a line through text I do not want to use instead of deleting it out of existence. Sometimes I can properly recast a sentence by just rearranging a few words; I would struggle to do this in a word processor after deleting the text.
I started having more and more ideas come to me. Several of these ideas were incompatible with my original story, so I copied them down into a notepad file for later use. Eventually the desire to use these ideas proved too much to resist. So I started taking on more and more stories. I am now working on four projects at the same time. I work on one story and ignore the other three. When I hit a wall I switch to one of the other stories and work on it. I do not have the process perfected just yet, but I’m getting closer. Most of these stories have been written using the seat of the pants method; this works when if it’s the only story you are writing. But after a long layoff it makes it hard to get back into writing that story. I have decided, going forward, that I will make detailed design documents for all stories before I switch away from them; this will allow me to more easily resume work when I cycle through to them again.
Under my current organizational system I have 3 notebooks I rotate through. One which is entirely dedicated to the story I feel most important, one for copying “The Elements of Style”, and one for practicing descriptions and story drafts.
My creative process has changed a great deal in the months since I first got the writing bug; I feel like an entirely different person than I was then. No mistaking, as a writer, I am still a suckling babe held firmly at his mother’s breast, yet for the first time in my life, I feel as if there is a chance I can do well. I am willing to do the hard work; I just hope I have enough time to reach my goals.