the process

You write and you write and you write and you write and you write. Then you delete a bunch of shit and write some more. Then you write and you write and you write. You put your computer away but then you think of something so you sit back down and write and write and write. But you don’t read what you wrote right away because it needs time to marinate. So the next day you read the new stuff and it’s good but it’s bad so you delete some and write some more and make it better. Then you write and you write and you write and you write. You write more because editing sucks and you hate reading your own work. Sometimes you read it and want to cry and delete it all. Sometimes you read it and want to cry because you move yourself to tears. And you write and you write and you write. Occasionally you shower. You panic. You focus. You fold laundry because that’s productive. You take a few days off because you are tormented. You wake up in the middle of the night with a great idea, so fabulous you won’t forget it. In the morning, you can’t remember.

You visualize your book on a table at a bookstore. You see someone walk over to it and pick it up, read the back cover. You imagine this person buying your book (recognizing most people don’t buy books in bookstores but this is more satisfying than picturing someone placing an Amazon order). You cringe at the bad review in your mind. You hear your voice on the Diane Rehm Show. On a good day, you might rehearse your Academy Award acceptance speech for best adapted screenplay. On a bad day, you print out your manuscript and use it for kindling.

You write. You edit. You perfect. You write more. You find mistakes. You drive yourself crazy.

And in the end, you have a book.


I just wanted to issue a warning that I won’t be writing much. Wait, let me rephrase that: I won’t be writing here much.

In an emotional moment over the summer, I started researching MFAs in creative writing. It turns out most of the good programs are located in bumblefuck America, and while I can fantasize about living a completely different lifestyle with my boys in Iowa, I know that’s not in the realm of the possible.

But through this exercise, I discovered that Stanford offers online creative writing courses. One in particular caught my eye: Novel Writing Back to Front. Since coming up with the ending is always the hardest part for me whether writing a blog post, email or story, it sounded perfect. I set a calendar reminder to sign up on the date registration opened.

Coincidentally, that day happened to be the one when I lost my car for 2.5 hours at DCA. Once I got home, the insurance assessor was there to investigate my flood claim. By the time I got to my computer, the class was full.

“I will just have to be self-motivated to write,” I told myself.

A month later, I hadn’t committed a single word to paper. Last week, I took some time to meditate and made a promise to myself that I would find a way to be disciplined about writing. When I was done, I had an email from the universe, I mean, Stanford, informing me I was in the class off the wait list.

Class started last week. I was officially in by Wednesday. Due Friday was the first assignment: 750 words from anywhere in your novel except the end because we workshop up to 5000 words of the ending for our final class project.

750 words of a novel I haven’t started writing? And a 5000-word ending by October 25th? Well, Wednesday night, I wrote 750 words. Then Thursday I compulsively revised and refined until at 11:38pm when I was comfortable enough to post my work on the discussion board. Then I waited nervously for responses from the instructor and my fellow classmates.

The feedback was all good. “Rich and believable” dialogue, according to the instructor. “Have you considered screenplay writing?” a student asked. Part of me was disappointed in the lack of criticism. I want to get better. But another part of me was fueled to expand those 750 words into nearly 8000 by the time the weekend was over.

So while I’m not writing here, I am writing somewhere. And I can tell you now with the greatest assurance that nowhere in the last 5000 words of my novel does a main characters sleep with a celebrity.

That story has already been written.