I have been asked by more than one avid blog reader/friend how I come up with almost daily personal essays to publish. Here’s my secret: strong opinions, and the gift of gab, and time. That’s it in a nutshell; but of course it’s not that simple. It takes me almost an hour to write the first draft of these few paragraphs. I have no problem coming up with the ideas- everything I do, see, hear, taste and smell becomes fodder for writing. In fact, this is the easy part for me. I keep a running list which I update as soon as the idea occurs, or else it will be lost in the mental ether. Thank goodness for cellphone notepads! For me, the challenge is fleshing out the skeleton so that it makes sense, all while trying to keep it interesting for you, my audience.
When I sit down to do my blog for the day, I first open up my list of possible topics. As I go over them, one or two will usually jump out at me as something I feel like expanding upon that day. I choose the topic that captures what’s on my mind at that moment. It always strikes me that as soon as I make my choice and start writing, the words seem to spill out of me as if they come from somewhere or someone else. I know this happens to a lot of writers. My students tell me all the time, “I can’t stop now, I’m on fire!” I know that feeling well- that’s where the time issue comes in. I have to have the quiet, uninterrupted space to at least complete a first draft.
Once I get in the groove, I usually just let it happen; then I go back to revise and edit. For a long, long time, I composed my initial thoughts on paper. I felt that paper and pencil, with its crossing out, arrows and asteriks, was a more organic way to write. I now feel very comfortable composing on the computer- cut and paste, delete, thesaurus, spellcheck, all at my fingertips makes me feel even more in control of the writing process. When I am on the go, however, I still often carry a notebook just in case my muse shows up and hits me over the head.
When I am “done” I usually walk away for a few minutes before tackling revision. It is hard to revise and edit your own words! I need to step back and hope that I can come to view the writing as freestanding, so I can find places that don’t flow or an error that will get me smacked with a rubber ruler by the grammar police. Sometimes I come back and I am really happy with what I wrote. Other times I come back and delete almost the entire thing- what the heck was I thinking when I wrote that?!
Finally it’s time to cut and paste the day’s entry into the blog and hit “publish.” There is always a small moment when my finger hovers over that button and I think, “am I sure I want this out there?” I go over in my head who will be reading it, and try to imagine their reactions. My “audience” drives the final decision about what goes on the blog. This is one reason I love your comments, whether public or private. I need to know if I was successful in entertaining, informing, and sharing.
Well, I never need to answer the question about how I write almost everyday again! I can now just refer any curious reader to this entry. Hope I didn’t bore the rest of you…