This is the first entry in a series of posts on my writing process.
When I begin a project, I let ideas explode from my fingertips and into a blank document. Restraint, caution, and self-doubt do not exist in this state. I forget typos, mistakes, and the possibility of “bad ideas.” Sometimes I also brainstorm on paper, which results in a more free-flowing and spatial outline. Blocks of ideas form different shapes, arrows direct the flow of related concepts, and lines connect similar thoughts. I do this until my brain is empty and my hands are exhausted. Then I lean back and see what I have. I compile it all into one computer document, title it my “Project Box,” and boldface all its content.
I create a new blank document and call it the “Tinker Box,” side by side with the Project Box. And I tinker.
Let’s say I have a bullet point in my Project Box that says, “explain why writing is fun — it’s exciting, meaningful.” I might rewrite it in the Tinker Box as, “Writing for me is exhilarating. It’s a chance to explore our beliefs and explain why they mean so much to us.” Then I de-bold the point in the Project Box to show I’ve expressed it, and move on to further points. Often times while writing, if I am uncertain how to make a particular point, I will make a suggestion in brackets, for example: [i cant think of a specific example right now — but basically explain how writing is both challenging and fun — theres a special mixture i need to capture here].
I keep going, elaborating on Project Box ideas and filling up the Tinker Box with ideas I’m developing until I’ve de-bolded everything in the Project Box. That means all my original ideas have been cleaned up and converted into material in the Tinker Box.
Next, I create one last document: The Junk Box. Once the Project Box is completely de-bolded, I copy it all and paste it into the Junk Box. I am a hoarder when it comes to my writing, so keeping these earlier drafts in a safe spot puts my mind at ease. If I ever want to re-examine my preliminary thoughts and ideas, I’ll know exactly where to find them. I rarely ever do this, but it’s nice to know that I can if I want to.
I delete the Project Box material since it’s now in the Junk Box. Then I move the Tinker Box content to the Project Box, leaving the Tinker Box blank. Although Project Box 2.0 is more developed than its predecessor, it’s not even close to being finished. I start the process all over again, developing ideas, rewording for clarity, arranging phrases into sentences and sentences into paragraphs, revising for logicality, cutting certain ideas, adding others.
In next week’s post I will talk about further stages of my writing.