Most of the longer posts—particularly the essays and short stories—you read here begin life as handwritten notes I jot down in an ever-growing collection of notebooks. These are strictly for my own personal use so I don’t feel any obligations. They’re places to let my mind roam free and get ideas down on paper. Most of the ideas are bad but something I think many of us who write can relate to is that the percentage of chaff to wheat is extremely high but the important thing is to get the idea down. That’s the starting point, and once it’s down a bad idea has a chance to be made into something good and a good idea has a chance to be made into something better.
And good or bad the idea doesn’t do anyone any good if it stays in my head.
Normally it takes me three to four months to fill a notebook and I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I write something on that last page. Sometimes as I get closer to the end of one I go into a flurry of writing, and sometimes I’ll set a date and push myself. I started my most recent notebook on November 7th and decided, as a purely personal challenge, to see if I could fill it up by the end of the year.
Then I got to the halfway point and decided to make the goal a little bit harder. And succeeded.
I finished writing the last page on December 6th.
Although something else I think many of us who write can relate to is that there’s really no such thing as being finished. The sense of accomplishment is short-lived. Filling one just means it’s time to move on to the next empty one.
I can’t imagine that most of your ideas are bad, Chris. That’s the first thing I want to jot down after reading your post. Congratulations on filling that last notebook so quickly.
I appreciate your faith in me, but there’s the principle that if at first you don’t succeed try again. And failure does provide an opportunity to learn. I’m just not prepared to share my failures–or what I think are failures–publicly.
Hey, hey, hey…. just wait a minute there mister! I see photos glued onto those pages. Just the those two photos together probably cover one entire page of your notebook. That seems like cheating to me. Did you REALLY fill an entire notebook. Hmmmmm…
Just yanking your chain man! Well done. That is a copious amount of writing. Much more than I ever do. If it was a contest, you would win.
Yes, I glue a lot of pictures into my journals partly on the principle that if I’m ever stuck for something to write about I can draw inspiration from the pictures and partly because as I flip through old ones looking for unused ideas it’s frequently the pictures that get my attention. And the pages on the lefthand side are mostly blank–I write on one side of the page and use the lefthand side for notes and additions if necessary.
So thanks for that yank on my chain. It gave me a chance to explain a little more about my process.
Thanks for sharing part of your writing process. And congratulations on your success with your challenge.
A few questions I have for you if you don’t mind…Do you write your posts longhand first? If so, do you edit further as you type? How long does it usually take you to complete a post? I realize that you write many different types of posts—random thoughts, personal stories, entire essays, etc., so you probably can’t really give an average time, but maybe you could give an example. You’re so prolific that I wonder when you find the time to do it all. I’m sure that not having kids gives you more time and ability to concentrate!
Wow, answering those questions could probably be a post in itself, but here are a few hopefully brief answers:
-I write some but not all posts longhand first. Short stories, longer essays, and personal stories usually start as journal entries written in longhand.
-I almost always edit those further as I type, although I sometimes go back and add additional longhand notes before I start typing. The graffiti posts are the only ones that are born online, so to speak, because I have the pictures on my computer. Most of the birthday posts are that way too although sometimes I write notes about a particular person and how I think they’ve influenced me.
-Although I’ve never really timed it I’d guess the absolute bare minimum I’ve ever spent writing any post is fifteen minutes because everything goes through at least three drafts, not counting the time spent composing in my head which I often do while walking. So it probably averages around two hours. Not having kids helps but I have a wife and three dogs and other things that take up time, but I also just can’t stop writing. I even keep a little pad by the bed.