October 23rd, 2007

book cover

Process is a Verb

So Jules (who has obviously been allotted more than the average 24-hours-in-a-day since she seems to have time to organize grand philanthropic events, interview literary starlets, review books with pithy panache and toss thought-provoking queries out into the universe) wants to know what we writerly folk think about “Process”. (At a recent conference, Rosemary Wells apparently said there is no such thing as process. Hmm. Makes one want to scratch one’s noggin.)


Here’s what I think.

Process is a verb and it’s something I do every single day. (Just ask my husband.)


I need to tease and sort stuff out because one big lumpy undifferentiated world is far too much to swallow whole.


To process is to name a thing, break it down into its smallest possible components, look at those pieces from every possible angle and through a variety of lenses, and then put it back together by articulating what’s been discovered. Preferably right at bedtime. (Just ask my husband.)


But really, it’s not unlike what we do as writers – especially during revision. We sit down and think, “What in sam hill was I trying to do here? Which bits work and which bits don’t? And why? Is it the point-of-view or the voice or the pacing or the narrative flow? And then, I’ve got an idea! I’m going to move this here because of a, and cut this because of b, and tweak this because of c.” 

And then we heat up our chai, which has gotten all curdley at this point, and start over. 
I mean, right?


That other kind of process, that Rosemary Wells says doesn’t exist? I call that practice rather than process. My personal practice includes writing something new every single day – sometimes a complete and rushy draft of a new story, sometimes a comma – and always, always, always reading my own work aloud. Yep. Just sittin’ in my chair writin’ and readin’. Oh, and also, waiting very hopefully for the lightening strike.


I’ll bet that’s not much different from what the rest of ya’ll are doing. Is it?