A Different Way of Doing Things... Part Three: Process


Writing and reading are processes.

That might sound obvious to you, but 17 years as a teacher taught me that it isn’t obvious to many. Many teenagers have a hard time not living in the moment; they tend to take each minute as it comes and don’t see that there is a past that they are emerging from and a future into which they are heading. It was difficult, then, for me to get them to appreciate the process of writing an essay, or planning something out with an end product in mind.

It’s the same for many readers: they read fiction page by page, while tending to fixate on the scene or ‘moment’ that they are in. Most allow themselves to be guided along in this way until the final ‘moment’, at which point all the accumulated power of the story (if it’s any good) is supposed to bowl them over. A few readers are a little more aware of what is being done to them and with them, and are more observant of the process.

Unfortunately, the same applies to many writers. They write the ‘bit’ that they write, and often don’t quite see what it is emerging from or heading towards. Many have no clear idea of where a piece if fiction is aiming. ‘Pantsing’, as they call it, is of course completely fine and many thrive on the unknowns it throws before them, finding that their creativity flows and finds ways around, up and over these blanks until a story takes shape; some try this and fail: the story merely wanders and doesn’t succeed in holding the reader or producing any kind of emotional effect. Writing like this remains largely unconscious and dependent on a large amount of luck.

Once a writer sees more clearly that there is a process and that it consists of distinct elements, wonderful things can happen.

When it comes to establishing a career as a writer, this lack of perception of process can get even worse.