Discovering Your Writing Process: how to find it and why you should
One of the greatest surprises of my mid-life existence is that I’ve discovered that I love Cross Fit (X-fit). My twenty-something children thought it was hilarious when I first started going, but three years in, they don’t laugh anymore. It’s just mom going to the gym.
I love it because I don’t have to think about my workouts. I just go, do the Workout of the Day (WOD) with a group of women who’ve become friends, get a good sweat on, and I’m done. Because I work at home, I also love the group atmosphere, and I’m competitive enough that the group makes me push myself harder than I would if I was alone.
But there are also days that I don’t like the WOD. At all. This week, one included ten minutes of handstand practice and another section included wall walks which involve laying on your stomach and putting your feet against the wall. As you shimmy your feet up the wall, you walk your body to the wall with your hands until you’re vertical. They’re freaking hard, but the worst part is going vertical and being upside down.
There is NOTHING about being upside down, either facing the wall or facing away from the wall, that I like. It scares me, and I honestly don’t see the point.
I’m 52. Do I need to be strong enough to hold myself up upside down? Nope, I do not.
So, I changed the workout. I said the hell with the dumb wall walks, and instead, I did some pushups and weighted ball lifts. I continued to move my body in a way that felt good to me despite the coach’s encouragement to continue practicing the wall walks.
You might be asking, “What does this have to do with writing?” SO MUCH!
Following YOUR Process to write your best book
Allowing yourself to find and follow your own process and trusting that your body and heart are guiding you is so important to the writing process. It can be scary to tell a coach, “Nope, that way doesn’t work for me,” especially when you’re paying for their expertise, but you know what feels good for you, what works for you.
I probably wouldn’t have changed a workout when I first started at X-Fit. It took some time for me to get confident in knowing what works for me and to understand the signals my body and heart were sending me. I had to learn to listen, just like we have to learn about our own writing and creative process.
Exercising this muscle of allowing yourself to discover your own process will work wonders toward building your confidence and identity as a writer.
It will also help you write your best book.
This week, I touched base with a client who started with the Book Foundations package in early spring. So far, we’ve clarified that she’s writing a memoir, and we know the timeline. It will cover one summer in the mid-seventies, and even defining that took a few discussions and time for her to sit with it. I was a bit concerned that we’re going slowly, but this is exactly what she wants.
On a call, she explained that her slower pace is perfect for her. She’s hoping to get the foundations workbook and her research done for her book by the time she retires, almost two years away. She does not want me to hold her feet to the fire (like many clients do). She wants me to hold space for her process because she’s writing on her timeline which I love.
It took Elizabeth Gilbert only 4-5 months to write her novel The Signature of All Things, but this was after over three and a half years of research, and boy did she research. (If you’ve read it, you know!). Sometimes that’s what it takes!
Like Elizabeth Gilbert, my client is also focusing on the front-end research and planning of her memoir. She’s a writer who’s allowing herself to explore and find her own creative process and work on her project in a way that brings her joy. My job, as her coach, is to provide the space and the container for that.
How to Discover Your Writing Process
If you’re not sure what your writing or creative process is, you can do some things to figure it out.
1. Think about a big, long-term project that you tackled, completed, AND enjoyed!
What was your process? Did you take time on it? Or, did you power through and take quick action or did you sit with ideas and play with them first? Did you outline and plan each step taking deliberate action? Or did you dive in and learned what you needed to as you went?
There are so many ways to approach a big writing project. Even if you’ve never written a book, you have tackled big projects in the past. How did you do it? What felt good to you? What worked and helped you make progress?
Take some notes on what you enjoyed and what frustrated you. Then, see how you can apply that to your writing.
2. Play with your writing process.
Try writing at different times of day, in different locations, with different modalities. Try writing in short bursts and in sessions that last two to four hours. What feels best? Which one felt inspiring?
Try handwriting, typing, or dictation. Track what’s working, what’s fun, and what feels good. You might be surprised to find that you kick ass in afternoon writing sessions when you thought that morning sessions were better for you.
Try doing different activities at different times of day for different lengths of time. For example, try editing in the morning and drafting in the afternoon or vice versa. See what feels good to YOU.
I did a podcast on this that you can listen to here. Find what’s aligned with your energy and how you work.
3. Look at your session prep and do more of what works
There’s not one way to begin a writing session. Do you write more or get into flow when you:
- sit down and face a blank page, totally open to inspiration and whatever is coming?
- use a prompt or journaling session and warm-up for fifteen minutes?
- have a detailed outline to follow to guide your content?
- take a few fifteen minutes to review what you wrote during your prior writing session?
- set word count goals and write till you get there?
- write until the flow stops?
4. Give yourself the time and space to figure this out.
It’s taken me writing five books, publishing four, and blogging for over a decade to get a sense of how I work best. This is partly because I was so damn sure that what worked for other writers should work for me. Part of my personal growth journey as a writer was learning to trust myself and my own creative instincts rather than doing what works for others.
That’s a great starting spot, but eventually, finding your own writing process is crucial to continuing to write and feeling fulfilled and aligned as you do so.
Even if figuring it out feels like you’re hitting pause on your project, you’re not. You’re aligning your creative process and your writing with YOU rather than with what you might read or hear about the “best way to write.”
The phrase “You do you” is a common one, and this applies to writing and creative projects as well. Even when so many writing books and programs out there recommend a specific process, those authors and teachers are sharing whatever it is they figured out works for them!
My invitation for you is to figure that out for yourself, and do more of that!
You will write more, enjoy it more, and feel aligned with your own soulful creativity! And that, my friends, is a huge win!
If you’re ready to explore becoming a writer and diving into your own book, book a discovery call with Amy, and see if she’s the one to help you get started.
I use to have a blog in my late teens,you are inspiring and strong not just physically but mentally and also talented,i admire you Amy,i might reopen thay dusty blog and try to follow your steps
Yes! Dust it off! And thank you for your kind words, Alex! You inspire me too. And you push me which I SO appreciate!!