Process v. Result Oriented-Writing
Updated: Aug 3, 2021
Thoughts on two different approaches to the writing process and what I have found to be most helpful.
Hello, everyone. I have been writing for about four years now as a hobby, and I have been working on breaking into the industry as a full-time writer. There have been a lot of changes in the perspective I have on what it takes to become an author, but I think the most fundamental is how I am approaching the process of writing itself.
Orienting toward Process v. Results
I have experienced so much frustration sitting in front of a screen with ideas and stories I am passionate about and trying to express them, feeling guilty and ashamed for not making my daily word count, etc.
Almost every day, I have movies playing in my head, characters and scenes that I want to bring to life which slowly reveal themselves to me more and more. Details also come to me, perspectives or inconsistencies I hadn't thought about and need to fix in what I have already written. So then I sit down. And freeze. I get so transfixed on how I want my books to end up that I get too intimidated to begin.
Result Oriented Writing
We all have heard that we are supposed to write every day. Some people can magically pull 1000 words out of their noggin every day, and gladly do so, but I have a hard time writing unless I am inspired to do so. I have been working on fixing that, disciplining myself to sit in front of my word processor every day. I spend a lot of time ruminating and daydreaming on what I think are awesome scenes and developments for my stories. And I usually know exactly where they fit into the rest of the story (having established a rough outline first; I am a 'seat of my pants' writer, but having a map helps, even if you end up at a destination you didn't anticipate).
But when it comes to writing itself, structuring my daily practice on these hard and fast goals seems... self-defeating. Even giving myself a specific word count has more discouraged me from writing at all than making me a more disciplined writer. I usually end up watching YouTube videos on writing instead.
But something has been coming up in my life that simply shifts the way I am viewing writing, and life in general. And that is learning to look at everything I do as a process.
Process Oriented Writing
"You don't set out to build a wall. You don't say, 'I'm going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that's ever been built.' You don't start there. You say, 'I'm going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid'. You do that every single day. And soon, you have a wall." -Will Smith
If you think about it, all of life is a process. To use a corny analogy, a seed grows into a tree. But even when fully grown, a tree is in a perpetual process of growth, evolution, and death. It does not simply cease to be a living process because it is has reached full maturity.
Somewhat of a tangent, but the point is that I am focusing on the writing process itself. To riff off Will Smith's quote above, rather than thinking, 'I'm going to write the next great novel!' or 'I'm going to write 1,000 words today', I want to focus on writing every sentence, beat, and scene the best I can. I think that it will make me less restrictive and demanding of myself, and open myself up more to the creative process. And I think that by focusing on the nitty-gritty details of what I am writing, allowing myself to submerge into my imagination rather than constantly checking my word count, I may not write the next best-selling book, but I will write the best book that I can right now. And, what's maybe more important, I will enjoy doing it.
Find the Balance that's Right for You
As I said before, I am a spontaneous writer. I do believe that having some scaffolding before going to town on building your amazing story helps a lot. It structures your writing and thinking to make the most of what space you have, making sure each part of your story is clear, concise, and fits seamlessly into the context of the greater narrative. But other than that, besides frequent notes relaying daydreams I have about my stories, I just sit down and write. And that's the approach that works best for me, and I know that because it feels right and, again, because it's what makes me enjoy writing the most.
But what is the best approach for you? It may be that having a word count is what works best for you. It may be that your process evolves as you develop more momentum in your practice. But I think there are key things to keep in mind, such as engaging in the process itself without getting too hung up on the results. We all want to make it as writers, but there's so much competition and daunting challenges in the way of doing that. If we get too stuck on the results of our writing, we end up in a quagmire of anxiety, guilt, and shame. We have to remember why we do this, and, I think it's safe to say with most art, we do it for it's own sake; we do this because we love it. I wish you all the best of luck on your journey.