I had just finished skiing down a slope up in the poconos when I decided to take a break from the cold. I walked into the lodge and bought a hot chocolate before looking for a place to sit down and relax for a little. I found a seat near one of the fireplaces where three people were involved in conversation. I sat down and introduced myself. They introduced themselves and I discovered I was in the presence of professional writers: Don Murray, Mary Karr, and Anne Lamott. They informed me that they were talking about The Writing Process.
Since writing is one of the more daunting tasks for me specifically I decided I should probably ask some questions while I had the chance.
“Whenever I need to write something the biggest challenge I have is getting into it, how do you guys get started?”
Anne thinks for a second before speaking “I have a one inch picture frame I put on my desk to remind me of short assignments.it reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one inch picture frame.”
Don strokes his beard as he says “The writing process itself can be divided into three stages: pre writing, writing, and rewriting. The amount of time a writer spends in each stage depends on the person.”
he took a moment before adding “start with pre writing, it is everything that takes place before the first draft. It will usually take 85 percent of the writers time.”
Mary shook her head, disagreeing with what Don said. “For me, the last 20 percent of a book’s improvement takes 95 percent of the effore, all in the editing”
I found this very interesting because Anne’s point seemed extremely helpful for someone who procrastinates and has anxiety like me. “How do you guys edit?”
Mary was quick to respond “every writer I know who’s worth a damn spends way more time “losing” than “winning” if success means typing a polished page that lands in print as is”
She took a moment to sip at her own hot chocolate before adding “every writer needs two selves, the generative self and the editor self. The editor self thinks only of saving the reader time and shaping a powerful emotional experience. She can’t turn her complaints and suspicions and doubt off.”
Anne was more than happy to answer my question “I always show my work to one of two people before sending a copy to my editor or agent. I feel more secured and connected this way, and these two people get a lot of good work out of me.”
“What about first drafts” I asked, finding all of their answers very interesting.
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something, anything, down on paper.” Anne said helpfully.
Don decided to add some input “writing is the act of producing a first draft. It is the fastest part of the process, and the most frightening, for it is a commitment. When you complete a draft you know how much, and how little, you know. And the writing of this first draft, rough, searching, unfinished.”
It was then I ran out of hot chocolate so I decided to go back out on the slopes. I thanked everyone for their input on the discussion before heading out of the lodge.