How do you go about writing one of your stories? What is your process like?
There are many people who can tell you more about the writing process than I can. But I’ll tell you how I do it.
The first thing to know is that writing requires brain power. And studies tell us that the human body gets its strongest surge at 5 A.M. This surge typically lasts until 5:03 A.M. Unfortunately, I am asleep during the surge and I am wholly unaware of it.
So I generally wake up exhausted at about 7:30 A.M. Then, I complain about how badly I slept the night before. When you get older, you don’t sleep as good as you used to.
My mother used to warn me about this. I would laugh at her and say “Ha ha! No way, I’ll sleep great forever! And I will always be able to eat acidic foods after six o’clock, too!”
You quit sleeping well around your thirties. And food? Once upon a time, I could eat an extra-large five-alarm beef burrito and finish the day like a caffeinated squirrel. Nowadays, if I eat one French fry I have to take a four-hour nap.
So anyway, after morning coffee, I wait for my mood to improve. I am not a morning person and never have been. My happy mood in the morning is always fake.
This is because when I was a boy I used to wake up with a bad attitude. My father took me aside once and said, “You’d better learn how to fake a good mood, or your mother’s not gonna make pancakes anymore.”
I’ve been faking good moods ever since.
When my caffeine takes effect, I go to my office. In my office, I have just about everything a writer needs to have around him. I have things like toddler toys, Superman statues, coonskin hats, my Little League glove, broken trumpets, and a taxidermied alligator wearing a Dale Earnhardt jersey.
I have these things for a serious reason. Because writing doesn’t happen when you’re writing. You have to spend plenty of time NOT writing. This act of not-writing is as important as writing.
Let me explain:
To get technical, I am talking about what scientists call, “horsing around.” This is when you wear a coonskin cap and play your broken trumpet and THINK very hard about what you’re going to write.
This thinking process is just as important as writing. Hence the alligator with the NASCAR shirt.
When I’m ready to put down words, sometimes I write on my Smith Corona typewriter. It’s an electric typewriter manufactured during the Lyndon B. Johnson administration. The motor makes a whirring sound. I learned to type on a typewriter, I can’t untrain myself to use it now and then.
They’re a lot of fun. Everytime you hit a key it makes a glorious THWAP! THWAP! I think the world would have much better literature if more people used typewriters.
Because when you write on a laptop you can backspace, correct spelling, highlight entire paragraphs, delete them, order dog food on Amazon, stream past episodes of “Dancing with the Stars,” or send an email to Pope Francis.
On a typewriter, your words stick to paper. Forever.
Once you’ve finished your first draft on the typewriter, now you need to get your words into a computer. I use an app on my phone.
It’s simple. All you do is take a picture of your typed pages. Then the app shows an hourglass for approximately forty minutes, and (voila!) just like magic, the app says, “Error 73840.”
Don’t get me wrong, the app is not without flaws. When it finally translates your pages, some of your words come through fine, but other words, such as the word “typewriter,” get translated as: 布特海德.
Thus, you have a mutant manuscript on your hands. Sometimes this is a real pain in the you-know-what. If the computer only changes the word “typewriter,” it’s no big deal. But when the software changes the words “the,” “if,” and “to” into “推特,” you are basically screwed.
But enough about that.
Now it’s time to edit. My policy is to edit once, then keep re-editing until I have created even more mistakes than a chimpanzee swinging a sock full of quarters at a computer keyboard.
But eventually you give up editing and learn to love your mistakes, instead of letting them make you feel stupid. Becuase part of being a writer is feeling stupid.
You put your thoughts out there and lots of people judge you. It’s hard putting yourself out there. In fact, this is the hardest part.
But don’t let that scare you because there are also nice people. Lots of them. Like a twenty-four-year-old who writes you because he wants to be a writer one day.
And even though you have no idea how to answer such a person, you put down your broken trumpet and Davy Crockett hat and decide to write something.
You fire up your electric 布特海德, and you write this kid because he reminds you of yourself. And you’d like him to know something you wish you had known long ago, which is:
If you want to be a writer, you already are.
Enjoy your sleep while you can, kid.