Or perhaps habitual chaos.
Last weekend over brunch a friend of ours told her friend, “Stephanie is a very disciplined writer. She keeps word counts and writes so many words a day.”
I almost laughed because disciplined is not a word I’d ever use to describe myself. My husband will tell you I’m kind of like the Tasmanian devil. Thoroughly undomestic, always in a hurry, and sometimes even haphazard. We don’t keep schedules at our house.
Normal people, disciplined people, may do house cleaning on Sunday, or their grocery shopping on Saturday. I tend to do everything whenever I feel like it or whenever I can shove it into my schedule.
Writing is no different. When people ask me about my specific writing habits you’ll notice I tend to skirt that question. Instead I’ll throw a bunch of platitudes and writing advice their way. Stuff we’ve all heard a million times from other writers (I merely parrot it like a mantra).
Perhaps it’s time I came clean because the truth is I don’t follow my own advice.
First you should know that I write in chaos. I know so many folks who, for example, plan their blog posts carefully and edit the crap out of them before posting. As a result each blog post reads like a well thought out essay.
I, on the other hand, write my posts on the fly. If they’re long it’s because I don’t know how or when to shut up. If they’re clunky it’s because I didn’t take time to edit. If they’re disjointed it’s because I don’t take time to really plan them out. Sure, in the very least I try to remember to run them through spell check. But that’s about as far as my editing goes. I save the laborious editing for my books and even then I still miss stuff as my editors will tell you.
I also write books in chaos. Sure, I’ll sit down with a goal of writing 1,500 words a night, but more often than not I’ll end up writing more. Or I’ll end up editing. Or I’ll end up watching TV or doing whatever I’m interested in doing at that very moment. I will write paragraphs during my lunch break or during stolen moments at work, then e-mail them to myself so I can graft them into my manuscript when I get home. I may be sitting on the couch watching TV with the laptop on my lap with two windows open. One with a NF book and the other a novel. I may watch TV, then pause and write a little on one manuscript and then a little on the other. Then I’ll watch TV some more.
My writing habits have got to be the worst ones for any writer to have. It’s a wonder I have actually finished anything, let alone gotten it published.
But somehow all that chaos manages to come together into a cohesive story or book and it works for me. It would be stupid for me to tell anyone to write like I do, however.
One thing I am diligent about is editing. My initial writing habits may be chaos but I tend to run my manuscripts through at least 3-4 editing passes before sending them to my editors for their final run through.
Now that’s not to say I don’t aspire to be more disciplined. I do. I just haven’t been all that successful at it (so far). Perhaps some day I will be less haphazard and more disciplined and I won’t blush and feel guilty when friends introduce me as their “disciplined” writing friend.
By the way, this blog post has not really been edited, but I ran it through spell check. Now I’m off. Hope everyone reading has a great day!