Call me nosy, but I love to know about the writing processes of other writers. How do they do it? What are their challenges? Any secret tips? How do they work…and what can I learn? To that end, I’m happy to participate in summer blog tour sponsored by Sheri Andrunyk of IC Publishing, as a writer talking about her writing process.
Last week, author Heather Hans, LCSW, MSW, MBA, CPIC, gave us an inside peek at her writing process (click over if you missed it).
I connected with Heather after we were both quoted in this Forbes article on how to leave your unfulfilling job. Then, last week, we met in-person and she is just as utterly lovely, radiating wonderful energy, as she seems. If you haven’t met her yet, Heather is a Visionary, Healer & Teacher, and the author of The Heart of Self-Love: How to Radiate with Confidence. It is Heather’s firm belief that loving oneself is necessary to have fulfilling relationships and a successful life, and her book is an ingredient list that teaches people the steps to self-love and radiance. Connect with her on her blog or Twitter: @HeatherHansTV
How do you start your writing projects?
It depends on the project. For my book (Where in the OM Am I? One Woman’s Journey from the Corporate World to the Yoga Mat) it was a percolating process—different ideas or a passing thought would pop into my head for months and I’d file them away for later. Then I finally sat down and started writing. At first, it was all inspiration-driven—no boundaries, no discipline, no schedule. Sometimes, I wouldn’t write for days and then I would sit and write for hours and hours, sometimes late into the night. These were the best times. I felt totally connected—like a conduit for the words that were flowing through me and out onto the page. It was the actual experience of what you read about some “real” writers who are total artists, at one with their craft.
But it wasn’t (and isn’t) always like that. For smaller projects, for instance an article or blog post, it’s usually more structured. I have a topic in mind (or assigned) and I write to it. There are those moments of inspiration and flow, but the process feels different overall—more “assignment” and less “when the Muse shows up.”
Now I’m writing my second book and so far it’s been more functional and structured. Is this because I’m a more disciplined writer now or because the Muse is on vacation? (It IS July after all!)
I’ve been considering this topic a lot lately: do you need inspiration to write books? Is it possible to be as disciplined and structured with the book process as it is with articles? If it is possible, is it desirable? Isn’t there something wild and lovely about waiting for inspiration to strike (“The Muse has arrived!” I can imagine a mental courtier announcing with a ceremonious thump of his ornamental staff), and then flow with it?
Of course, that necessarily means we have to wait for the Muse to arrive (aka inspiration to strike)…which could involve a lot of waiting and therefore be inherently limiting.
I visualize this like surfing—waiting for a wave or creating your own waves. If it is possible to create your own waves, are they just as good as a wave that just came to you from its own organic origins?
I’m puzzling through this and would love to hear your thoughts!
How do you continue your writing projects?
I need to keep myself fresh and invigorated, which usually means mixing it up with a change of scenery (cue me, taking my rescue dog Peluda for walks throughout the day or going to the gym). But once I’m on a roll, I find it easier to keep rolling. I keep going back and finding loose threads and weaving them in until it’s as tightly knit as possible.
Once that’s in place, I go back over it and over it and over and over it, rewriting, refining, rewriting, refining, until I
want to pull my hair out…uh, I mean until I feel a wonderfully delightful sense of being “done.”
How do you finish your projects?
It’s a carefully concocted mix of incredible discipline…and delicious treats. (Sometimes, more treats.) The finishing stage for OM was definitely the hardest part for me. By then, I was four years into the process and I was energetically drained. I had to really dig down—deep down—to stay steadily with it through those last few months.
The treats are the better part. I like the sesame seed sticks and baked cheese sticks from Trader Joe’s. I also like the gummi bears and black licorice. If I’m dreading something, I pour myself little bowls of whatever I want, set them beside my laptop, and get to work.
What’s one challenge or additional tip that our collective communities could benefit from?
Find a practice that re-energizes, focuses, and refreshes you. My yoga practice was key to writing my book. Perhaps you prefer running, knitting, painting, tai chi…whatever it is that helps you release stress and help you focus, find it and do it.
When you feel overwhelmed, break it down into more manageable bites. Reward yourself for small steps (treats!). Breathe deeply and often. Remember that there is only one thing that is going to make you feel better and that is to actually do it. So sit down, take a deep breath, and do it.