Dancing with Big Magic

Let me explain my own personal writing process. Maybe this will inspire you to embrace your own writing process.

When the words come, I just get them out. Paper. Computer. Phone notes. Whatever is at my disposal. I grab the words while they are swirling around my head and let them flow out. I don’t have time for punctuation and spelling. Whatever I need to write, I release. 

Writing is magic. It is healing. Cathartic. When I write poetry it just comes. Usually at 3 o’clock in the morning. Usually after processing something for a long time. When the pieces of the puzzle finally come together. 

Later, I go back and perfect it. Inspiration doesn’t sit around waiting, it comes and goes, so it is important to write when it comes.

Other times it’s tedious writing. Editing, revising. Labouring over a word, one sentence. Deliberating a comma or a full stop. When inspiration comes to dance, I dance. 

I found writing a full manuscript and getting to 85,000 words was like filling a big water tank. It simply took one word at a time. Like dripping water, it slowly filled up. Like catching water and filling a tank, I had times of a sudden down pour. A rush of water. Sometimes it was dry. A half-filled tank; a barely finished story. It simply took one drop. One word at a time. I learnt that small acts. Small, simple tasks that add to a big, final project or piece are important. I have never had the luxury of being able to dedicate my full attention and time to writing, so stealing a moment, an hour in a day is all it takes. The secret is to make it most days. Steal it unapologetically. 

Writing for me is not just the physical act of typing or scrolling on paper. Observation is like constant research. I would watch the light. Be mindful of the seasons. What does it look like? Everything in life becomes interesting, as I’d study it and think about how I would convey it on the paper. The challenge of conveying on the paper what I observe. Challenge of taking what I see in my mind’s eye and painting that picture with my words. An exciting challenge.

I have read as much as possible and studied words. I’m constantly trying to extend my vocabulary. Whenever I find a word, I like or don’t know, I write it down and look up its meaning. In Year 8 my teacher said that words are a writer’s tools. The more words you have the better. I try to gather as many tools as possible. 

Writing. It is joy and torture all at the same time. The story line and the characters just won’t leave you alone. Driving to and from work. As you sit and ponder, the images and voices dance in your mind. You can’t leave it or escape it. Pestering you to write them into life and tell their story. 

Notes. So many random fucking notes that need to be weaved together and fleshed out and made into something coherent. I love them. I hate them. I don’t know if this is a technique, I would recommend but often inspiration comes at inconvenient times and I need to record the ideas and then find the time to come back to them. 

Sometimes it is pure magic. When words, thoughts and feeling all flow. Coalesce. Pouring onto the page effortlessly. My spirit dances within another creative realm. There is freedom, healing and alchemy.

Other times, it’s just fucking hard work. Labouring over a sentence structure. Getting the plot to work. Checking dates. I have a detailed excel spreadsheet where I record the ages and details of my characters to make sure I am consistent. Deliberating over a word. Editing. Drafting. Editing. Drafting. Each word, each sentence, each paragraph, each chapter. Reading, correcting, fixing, changing, perfecting. I drafted my novel 7 times. I did 2 complete proof reads and edits from printed copies. I would sit with a pen and highlighter and go through each chapter. By simply doing one chapter a day, I found I could easily achieve that. Stealing an hour.

There is this critique, this judgement. A constant fear and doubt. This is also a driving force. Fear and inspiration join me on this journey. As Elizabeth Gilbert recommends in Big Magic. I let inspiration be in the passenger seat as I drive down this road of creativity and fear sits in the back seat. Still there, but not in control. The truth is, if I let fear drive, or even sit up the front, I wouldn’t write. I wouldn’t creative. I wouldn’t dance. I wouldn’t let the magic surround me. I would simply not do it for fear of judgement and failure. Isn’t that what life is like in general. We avoid trying for fear of failure. This journey is not easy, but it is so worth it. When it’s work and when it is magic. I always show up because dancing with big magic is like no other dance.