I am not a get up early in the morning and write kind of writer. I am not a set aside a specific amount of hours each day and write kind of writer. I am not a ten pages or ten-thousand words a day kind of writer. I am a daydreaming, journaling, walking, reading, listening to music, musing kind of writer.
When I’m out and about, I jot down notes and take pictures of things I find unusual or funny, frustrating or sad. At home I write in my journal, usually while having my morning tea and by morning I mean any time after 10:00 a.m. Anyone who knows me, knows not to call or text or expect any kind of coherent response to an email before at least 10:00 a.m., if not noon. I am definitely not a morning kind of person, much less a morning kind of writer.
My journal rarely contains anything noteworthy—it’s really more of a diary than a writer’s journal but it gets me thinking about life and experiences I’ve been through and about those unusual or funny, frustrating or sad things I’ve taken a picture of or jotted down.
Then, I ruminate. I ruminate a lot. I ruminate while doing the dishes or taking a shower or riding on the el. I ruminate while walking along the lake or when I’m supposed to be clearing my mind during yoga. A friend once remarked that I enter every room head first. Apparently, as far as my body is concerned, my head comes first because that’s where all the ruminating gets done and where all the writing comes from.
When something close to being considered “writing” happens, it usually starts with a rhythm I get in my head that then takes over my body and pretty soon I am moving to that rhythm. Then words attach themselves to that rhythm and then I am writing to that rhythm about things I find unusual or funny, frustrating or sad. I am a natural dancer and love nothing more than kicking it on the dance floor or bounding around my apartment. Basically, writing, for me, is dancing with words. My fingers tap-tap-tapping on my computer to the sounds I hear in my head, and the sounds I hear in my head speeding up or slowing down depending on the mood my writing dance wants to convey. I’m also a natural performer so when I am writing, I am hearing the words as if they are being spoken aloud. I hear where they need to be soft or loud, emphatic or desultory. I hear where the words need to stop or pause or tumble together. I enter the writing head first, hearing and feeling it all.
I am also a deadline kind of writer which may explain my long career in advertising as a copywriter as well as my return to school for an MFA. Give me a deadline and I’m off and running. In advertising, the deadline could be a day, an hour, or fifteen minutes. For school, if it’s an “in-class” deadline, then I’m off and running based on how much time the professor has given us. If it’s a “homework” deadline, then I’m off and running but in a faster-paced, eye on the prize, get it done in plenty of time to revise and polish kind of daydreaming, journaling, walking, reading, listening to music, musing. Whatever it is, whenever I feel the proverbial “someone standing over my shoulder” reminding me constantly that a deadline is approaching, I write faster and I write more.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean I write better when I’m writing for a deadline. Only that I at least get something down on paper that I can then go back and re-craft later. My best work usually comes late at night, when the whole world’s asleep and it’s absolutely quiet and there’s no-one around to interrupt or distract me. I crave the quiet. I need the quiet so I can listen to the rhythm in my head and start attaching words to it. I can’t do that during the day. It works for me, and since it works for me I won’t try to fix what isn’t broken. I don’t have to be a get up early in the morning, set aside a specific amount of time, complete ten pages or ten-thousand words a day kind of writer. I can be the daydreaming, journaling, walking, reading, listening to music, musing, waiting for the world to go to sleep, staying up all night, with the moon as my only company, kind of writer that I am. And that’s perfectly fine for me.
Elizabeth Gerard, Assistant Editor