The Process of Writing

Part of the creative process of writing occurs while actually writing. This is because of the relatively slower rate at which even the fastest scribe among us can put words to paper, as opposed to how quickly we can speak, much less think.

When you write, as you hit the keys or push the pen, you’re telling a story slowly enough to allow time for you to hear the ongoing parallel chatter in your brain. Your brain is running circles around each thought, around each written word, spinning out an infinite web of possibilities. Rabbit trails. Rights turns in the plot. Left turns. Character actions and thoughts and history. An unexpected and fascinating array of What Ifs.

And so you momentarily take your hands from the keyboard and pick a leaf from this whirlwind of thought. A word, an idea. And you place it on the table to examine it, if only for the merest blink of an eye. You let your mind rest on it just long enough, wondering how it might fit. And everything suddenly changes. Now the vortex of creative imagining has a new center. It has moved. Your brain is taking laps around the new word, treasure hunting in the earth of the new concept.

You started at Point A with all good intentions to head to Point B. But the cerebral winds of change keep nudging you to write off the path, inching you left and right, back and forth. Sending you to destinations you had not yet envisioned, with characters you had not met, or which you had naively assumed you knew. This is how minor characters become subplots. This is how a character develops new motivation from a freshly imagined history. This is how plots can grow and deepen and become more interesting.

And so a story is written.

The gyre of creative thought swirls just outside of where your cursor rests on the screen, just inches from the tip of your scribbling pencil.

Go ahead. Select a thought from that new cyclone.


About Bill Davis

Writer, speaker and translation and language learning consultant. I write technical articles, poetry and humor, and I am working on my first novel which is set on the island of Palawan in the Philippines.
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3 Responses to The Process of Writing

  1. Well, check you out!! Nice blog, Bro!

  2. This is helpful. (My brain thinks.) It also takes a lot of patience to let the brain wander around and find its way. Especially with an inauspicious start.
    My friend Walker, one of the most prolific people I know, said that when he gets frozen he’ll put on a movie and three genres of music, all at top volume, so that his brain can think without him listening.

    • Bill Davis says:

      Thanks, Chelsea. “Think without thinking.” I like that. I wrote this after an experience when I was writing a chapter for my novel and what I thought was a minor character, a prop in the scene, stepped forward and told me that she was a major character with a whole subplot of her own, a character arc, a love interest, and a different lens through which to view the novel’s setting and the other characters, and fodder for a sequel. It just “happened” and I had to think about whoa, HOW did that happen? It was somewhat like jamming on the piano, playing jazz… but I had to come up with a way to express it in word, and to apply it to writing.

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