Before I started keeping journals I remember searching for just the right pen and perfect notebook. It wasn’t long before I realized this pursuit actually kept me from writing my first entry. So I took one of the many notebooks I had lying around, grabbed a handy ballpoint pen and dove in. I am so grateful I did. 20 years and countless notebooks later the positive calming effects of the practice have spilled over into the rest of my life. Sometimes I write in lovely leather-bound journals but other times a handy cocktail napkin suffices. I try to remember not to make the writing process supersede the act itself.
When writers are interviewed, one question you can always count on is “What is your writing process?” Their answers are all over the map. Novelist Alice Hoffman curls up on her couch but can write just about anywhere. Non-fiction author Jeffrey Toobin disciplines himself to write 2500 words each day and often starts writing before he has completed his research. Novelist, journalist and illustrator Christopher Noxon, grabs precious moments in between carpool pickups. Stephen King writes in the morning, reserving afternoons for “Red Sox games…..”
I was aware of this writing process question as a young girl. My Dad, Alvin Boretz was a screenwriter and I vividly remember going to sleep to the sound of clacking typewriter keys from the converted closet of my parent’s bedroom. He reserved his days for research trips to the library, diving into his latest passion (Irish playwrights, navigation by the stars, travel, etc.) riding his bike around the streets of our Long Island home and being there for my sister and I with made to order milkshakes.
Fortunately, Dad was a fast writer and wrote well with deadlines. Stories, dialogues, and characters lived in is his head but he sometimes needed gentle nudges to transfer them to the page. When a script was due, my mom, Lucille, his “coach in residence” knew he could become easily distracted. When mom heard Dad talking on the phone, kidding around with my sister and I or napping a little too long she would call upstairs with an emphatic “Get to work, Alvin!” That verbal cue was usually all he needed. Dad sent his scripts in on time.
I have been productive. I have written 3 books in 6 years. Still, writing doesn’t get easier. So, I continue to seek out different writing routines, Would it be better to force myself to write with a timer? Should I take a cabin in the woods? Is listening to Mozart or Mendelson more conducive to eliciting that elusive phrase?
I don’t want the process to become the end itself. That only keeps me from writing. It is about the blank screen and diving in. So I think I will use a version of mom’s mantra (along with my phone’s timer) to continue working on that next book. “Get to work Jennifer!” serves me for right now.