The Creative Writing Process

When we first learn about creative writing, we are taught one path to follow as the creative process:

  • Brainstorm/Research
  • Outline
  • Write
  • Edit
  • Revise

The exact wording of this list varies depending on where you were taught, but the bones of the list is inherently taught. For young writers, this is a good list as a place to start. The list gives them the structure and direction on how to get from point A (what do you want to write about?) to point Z (a finished story).

However, as we grow our creative writing skill, we eventually find that we don’t fit the mold we were taught as children. We have become, ourselves, a unique writer. One who blazes their own path forward in delivering stories. It’s a personalized approach that evolves as we become more seasoned.

You could be a plotter. You could be a pantser. You could be one who writes inspiration from a dream and only during the editing phase, figure out what the story is about. You could be someone who writes the ending first then goes back to figure out how to get to that end. You could be a mid-prose editor, who writes a chapter then edits versus editing when you have your story fully written. You could be someone whose process is what they were first taught.

There is nothing wrong with any of these processes. You are developing YOUR story through YOUR own creative writing process. There is no “one size fits all” process because we are individuals and our brains are wired differently.

How do you find the best writing process for you?

The only sage advice I can give is to experiment and find what feels right. Up until a few years ago, I was a pantser for all forms of creative writing. “Sit down and go” was my motto. Today, I am a psudo-plotter. What I mean by that is I write the ending first then write an outline starting from the beginning. Having my ending defined helps me build the plot and characters that will get the reader to that end. I am sure in another few years as my writing skill evolves, my process will morph into something new.

Thus, dear reader, I cannot give you any secrets to unlocking what your writing process because there is no grand secret. You have go out there and write! Your process will develop on its own to what feels most natural for you. Expect it to evolve over time as you grow as a seasoned writer and don’t worry if you notice that you have a different process for different story types. Your writing process for novels may look very different from your writing process for short stories.

What is your writing process? Have you seen your writing process change over the years? Do you have different writing processes for short stories, novels, poetry, et cetera?

Zwift – my new writing tool

Yep, you read that right. Zwift, oddly enough, helped me to conceptualize my second novel.

For those of you who are not familiar with Zwift, it is an app that takes you into a virtual world where you can train on your bike with an indoor training or run on a treadmill. Once you connect in, you can work away at customized trainings or join in a race against others across the world. It has become my “go to” cycling or running training tool for these cold winter days when it is too dark to go outside (or when I am wimping out from the cold).

I knew the advantages that I was going to get in my training from Zwift. What I didn’t know is how it was going to help me write.

Time is incredibly precious. I constantly find myself struggling to balance the time between training (Pittsburgh Marathon in May) and working on my novels, short stories, blog, etc. There are only a few hours in a day that I can fit these in as I also have a career where I work 8+ hour days, 5 days a week. On top of that, I need to make sure I am spending quality time with the special people and fur babies in my home.

All of that usually allots me 1-2 hours of either training or writing. That’s not a lot of time each day to spend on honing either craft.

Enter Zwift.

A few weeks ago, I was just spinning away on a customized work out, staring at the TV and watching my avatar speed along the course. Suddenly my mind began to drift and I subconsciously starting to untangle a little snag that I hit in my current work. It was like a shock to my system when I realized what was going on! I grabbed my cell phone, paused Lizzo from belting her beautiful voice over my speakers, and opened a voice recorder app all the while still pedaling away. Breathlessly, I started to just blurt out what was going on in my head (note: I truly mean “breathlessly” as I was talking while spinning high RPMs, depriving my brain of oxygen).

Several minutes later, I untangled a web that I had written myself into a few days earlier. Case solved.

This was not a one-time instance. Each time I am spinning with Zwift, I get entranced and end up figuring out how to progress whatever I am working on now. It is like the physical activity helps to make the brain power at a higher wattage too.

I am all about efficiency here and doing these two tasks at once is working out brilliantly. As well as safely. While cycling or running, I do tend to find my mind wandering to my stories, but I tend to quell any thoughts because I stop paying attention to what is going on around me in the real world once my head descends to the clouds. With Zwift, I can work out to my hearts content and not have to worry about being sideswiped by a car or tripping in a pothole. I can let my mind wander. And when it is time for my workout to change, Zwift audibly tells me and I can break my writing trance and switch gears to what I need to do next in the workout.

A win-win over all and I usually accomplish both in an hour, then spend another hour post-workout to write down whatever it was that I figure out.

I have yet to try this while running on the treadmill, mainly because I am gasping for breath or I’d probably fall off the machine from trying to talk, think, and run at the same time. I also have not attempted to ride and hand write at the same time… I don’t think my Sonic Endurance coach would be too happy with me trying that. That’s a whole other level of coordination I don’t have, even if my bike is on a stationary trainer.

For you athlete writers out there who are struggling to find the balance between work, family, writing, and training, I highly suggest giving Zwift a go and try to work on your plot points or character development or whatever else you need to sift through in your written work.

And if you figure out a secret to writing and spinning at the same time, do let me know.

The Climb
(c) Gary Crawford

The Universe always knows how to throw one’s life into chaos. The result is a tumultuous fall into a deep, dark prison.  The landing is jarring, and one is left broken, not knowing what to do next. Does the fallen stay in the prison staring up at a pinprick of light that is the way out, dreaming of freedom? Or does the fallen take action to climb hand-over-hand up a vertical, crumbling wall that threatens to fall apart, but never quite does, and they eventually make an escape?

We are all held prisoner at one time or another in our lives. After the fall, we are presented with two routes where only one can be selected to follow during our imprisonment. The first route will be rough and takes a lot of work, patience, and energy to traverse. You will slip along the way, skinning your knees or banging your head. Yet, with perseverance, you’ll be able to escape to a place where things are better, and you reach a higher point in your life. The second route will be simple. You’ll climb easily along through a haze in an endless direction that leads nowhere and is without  escape. There will be no growth for you, and you’ll stay in the darkness forever.

The second route must never be chosen. No matter how hard the first route is to ascend, choose it. Show the Universe that you made it out of that prison alive and overcame whatever chaos the Universe hurled your way.

This has been a year that where I reached a new summit of growth after years of stumbling along a precarious path to escape my darkest prison. A little over four years ago, I fell from a high place where things seemed to be going incredibly right with my life and I was becoming known in the writing community as an author. When the fall happened, I landed in a deep pit of darkness. I laid at the bottom, shattered for a long time, trying to figure out what to do. I had felt like I lost everything – including my writing. For almost a year I wallowed in just staying steady – not falling any deeper into the darkness, but not getting any further out. There was a moment where I did find a tiny spark of light while I was in my prison, but a few months after finding it, the light went out and I was back to where I had initially fallen. It took many, many tries to climb. Each attempt got me closer to escape, but then there was always inevitably a fall. Yet, with each fall, I didn’t fall back as far down. I was making progress towards my escape, surely but slowly. It was not until the beginning of this year that I grasped the edge of the pit and pulled myself out into the light, into freedom. Now I’m at a point where I am sitting on the edge, my feet are dangling in the pit, but I am looking towards the sky.

This year has brought me insight to a newfound strength that I never knew I had. Three major events happened for me in 2019 and I sit in awe of these accomplishments: I survived the stress of building a brand new home and life with another person, I’ve become a triathlete with a goal of completing an IronMan in the next few years, and the major accomplishment, I have finally finished my first novel, My Brother’s Keeper. This is the novel I started in 2014 right before my fall, the one I spoke about on Martin Lastrape’s podcast. Now the novel is in the wonderful process of editing, which excites me as this process will only make the story stronger.

I can now see that the future is bright and there are so many more accomplishments that are stretching far front of me and there are higher summits to ascend. The road forward will be in no way perfect or easy, but my steps are off with the right start and I now know how to better maneuver when the Universe hurls its chaos. I’ll take the blows, get knocked down and stumble, but this time I’ll keep my eyes firmly locked on the bright sky.