The Writing Process Blog Tour
My blog is being kick-started back into being by an invitation.
I have been in a conversation over the last 8 months with a remarkable man – Andrew Taggart (http://andrewjamestaggart.com). As you will see from his website he is a philosophical consultant. Andrew engages people in acts of inquiry / discovery through the rich art of his philosophical training. We have been inquiring together about the way in which a disposition for surprise can be cultivated through a combination of Theatre and Philosophical practice. In the midst of this inquiry Andrew asked if I would participate in this particular endeavor (after seeing that my Rehearsal Process blog was looking neglected).
So what is it? The Writing Process Blog Tour invites people to do a short blog entry about their writing process by someone who has just done a short blog entry about their writing process (think of an old fashioned chain letter with a digital twist – you can see Andrew’s response on his website). As it was described it is “a way of connecting others in rather surprising ways”.
To give the various entries shape you are asked to respond to following four questions:
1) What am I working on?
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
3) Why do I write what I do?
4) How does my writing process work?
So without further introduction or fanfare here is a contribution to the ongoing inquiry into the writing process. Enjoy.
My Writing Process
What I am working on is always a mix of different projects. In a very direct way it reflects the way I read – since there seems to always be at least three different books on the go at any time. These are not overlapping types of books (not three detective novels) but instead span different interests. Likewise with the writing. At present I am writing about the Ensemble Relationship work I do with organizations. This is an experiential workshop that invites people to consider the quality of the relationship that can be developed to support collaboration and creativity. I have written about the ideas and concepts that underpin the work I do in a short chapter for a book called Educating for Creativity (R. Kelly: ed) but that was published two years ago and the ideas have evolved. I now have a larger model of creation that illustrates why the development of the Ensemble relationship is so fundamental to innovation work. Thus the new knowledge generated through practice needs to be translated into language (and I believe that the process of capturing practical knowledge into language is important).
Another writing project is ongoing journal work. I journal each morning around a specific question and then once a week re-read my entries to surface emerging understanding and capture those thoughts forward to the next week of inquiry. This is something that would never be shared since it is a personal act of inquiry.
Finally the last writing that occupies time is what I put under the title of “business writing”. These are things like the content of the Rehearsal Process website, workshop descriptions, outlines for projects, etc. It is the correspondence between myself and the world around me about the work that occupies my attention (and that I love). This is the least glamorous writing I do and yet it may be the most important work done (and may have the biggest readership). It is challenging since it asks that I surface the simplicity in something that is intrinsically complex – namely the process of creation and human social interaction. It is a balancing act that asks one to always be always be returning to the challenge, so it is a writing project that is never complete.
I believe it is important to write (okay I am jumping over question 2 right now but will return shortly) because the act of writing is a distillation of understanding. Through writing we make something subjective (a feeling, a belief, an insight we have personally) into something objective that we may then look at with distance. In this way writing is part of the process of clarification and inquiry. What ideas begin to flourish once they are outside and what ones need more cultivation? The writing I share with others is the best thinking I have done to date (which also brings up the natural decay that most writing has since it will need to be rewritten eventually. Therefore the quality of writing is determined by its shelf life).
I also write in order to aid memory. My journaling practice helps me to keep in touch with emerging thoughts and ideas. The writing done in support of my workshops is to help participants remember the experience and key ideas as they move forward into their own lives.
I am not sure if my writing is that different from other people in the genre (and it is not something I have spent a lot of time considering) but my writing does have a very specific source. I am fascinated by what happens in the world as people try to create. My background as a theatre director has always given me a bias to people’s actions – what can be learned from what a character does in a situation. In my writing I also focus on the what people do and the challenges they face as they try to do something. Therefore the work seeks to be practically based, illustrating the heuristics that can guide action as we create in complex social groups. A question I always ask myself as I write is “will this help someone do something different?”. Recognizing of course that what they do different must contribute to the situation in which they find themselves.
My writing process works in fits and starts. I have always wanted to be like Tennessee Williams who supposedly wrote every morning without fail for three hours. This is an ideal to which I have never gotten close. Instead the writing is prompted by needs – the website is in need of an update, there needs to be better follow up material to the workshops, I need to write a blog since I have been invited to contribute, etc. That is not to say that this trend won’t change (and I am making a commitment to a weekly blog after today).
Once I have been spurred on the way I write is straight ahead. I move through the work without spending much time going backwards in the first draft. I can become lost in the continual reappraisal of work and so commit to finishing before I make any attempts at refinement. I am also someone who likes to write in long spells – rather than an hour or so here and there, putting in 6 hours at a time. It is also that I need a certain amount of time to warm up and be in the head space before the work starts to flow.
So there that is my writing process laid bare for your consideration.
At this point I am supposed to introduce the next writers in the Writing Process Blog Tour (who you can go to next week to read about different ways they approach this most personal of endeavors) but I must admit that I have fallen short in this area. I started this whole process late (remember that part about writing being a response from outside rather that a carefully considered action) and so I will introduce you to two writers who will continue the tour in my blog post next week.
Be well until next week.
PS Write someone a letter this week.