Every writer’s process is different.
Some spend ages perfecting each word or sentence in their heads, then sit down and hammer out a draft in no time. Others slap their words down on the page, then reshape those words draft after draft until they look like art rather than a jumbled mess.
Some write by hand, others on the computer and still others on their cellphones.
Some writers focus on one type of writing and strive to perfect their craft in just that one genre or category. Other writers scatter seeds to the wind and cultivate the projects that feel right to them in that moment, even if these projects are vastly different from things they’ve written in the past.
This week I’m curious to find out about your creative process. What do you do when you need to come up with a killer idea for a writing project, or when you want a fresh new take on an old piece you wrote? Are there any tools or tricks of the trade that you find helpful?
As for me, my process revolves around a little thing I’ve put together called the Brain Book. The Brain Book consists of the following items all stored in a zipper pouch: a medium-sized notebook, fountain pens in an assortment of colors, stickers and a variety of knick-knacks or “mascots.” The idea is to keep a little bit of my office and writing space with me tucked into this zipper pouch so that even when I’m writing on-the-go I have everything I need to feel home with my writing.
This picture shows you what my Brain Book looks like right now (though contents will change periodically.) When I need a creative boost, I grab my Brain Book and head to a cafe or nearby park/garden to hang out for an hour. During that time, I brainstorm and work out my ideas on paper without judging or over-thinking any one concept. When I come home, I’ve usually got the start of something I can work with.
The other day, I was doing one of these brainstorming sessions at a coffee shop when two kids came over and started asking me questions about the Brain Book. The apparatus seemed to fascinate them. Our conversation went something like this:
Why doesn’t your notebook have lines? Is it hard to write straight? I don’t like lines because sometimes I write longways and sometimes I write sideways and sometimes I write in a circle or upside down. Sometimes I’ll draw pictures. Lines just get in the way.
What are the stickers for? So I can give myself a couple when I do good work.
What are all these pins and weird stuff? Talismans or mascots… to keep me company when I write and give me important reminders. Like the compass charm tells me that I should make sure I’m going in the right direction with everything I write. The skull and crossbones button reminds me to fight for my writing.
At this point in the conversation, the kids’ nanny came over and told them to “stop bothering the nice writing lady.” It was hardly a bother, though. In fact, that short conversation with those kids reminded me of the most important reason why I use the Brain Book: because it’s that tiny but magical ritual I need to get my writing going.
Having this little contraption with me transports me to a place where I feel safe and ready to write anything. When I unzip that pouch my brain knows that “OK, it’s time to write now” and it’s like a switch gets flipped in my mind because I go into writing mode. And because I can take the Brain Book just about anywhere, I never have an excuse not to write, which is perhaps the best part of it all.