what happened to my nice-neat writing process?

You know, my writing process is a bit of a mess. It didn’t used to be. There was a point in my life when I could be given an assignment, make a plan, crank it out, reread it, make the deadline, and earn an A. The same is true when I started teaching. I wrote alongside my students, cranking out the assignments, jotting in my notebook, churning satisfactory pieces of writing out in time for deadlines. Writing has traditionally been easy for me. In fact, I would even go as far as to call my writing process streamlined.

Then I started writing a book. I churned for months before I wrote anything significant for Day by Day (Stenhouse, 2010). Deadlines became my motivator. I wrote even when I didn’t want to. I wrote even when the words weren’t working. I wrote and wrote and wrote, and somehow, in the end, all the jumbled words became a book.

I couldn’t stop writing. I started working on a young adult novel and my writing process became even messier. It seemed the only place I could still crank out a decent piece of writing in a streamlined fashion was for a blog post. I continued to write even when I didn’t want to. I wrote in the wee hours of the morning and too late at night.

Now, three years after first starting Day by Day, my writing process is messier than ever. I like to think it’s because I’ve crossed over. I’ve moved from being a person who writes to being a writer. I’m becoming comfortable in the uncomfortable place of discovering, playing, and building.

So right now, as I stand on the brink of significant revision for my next professional book, Celebrating Writers (Stenhouse, 2012 I hope), I’m allowing myself to linger in the mess. I’m trusting the time spent here will pan out into something worthwhile. I’ll reach deeper understandings and find fresh connections by simply embracing my messy writing process.

Gone are the days of a tidy process. I’ve lived this writing life long enough to realize it is in the midst of the mess that really good things happen. And you know, I think I’m thankful for this. I’m glad it is through discovering, playing, and building that I find the most powerful combination of words. In fact, I wouldn’t trade for my old streamlined process. It wasn’t nearly as meaningful. Easier, yes. But not even close to being as meaningful. Today I’m thankful for the mess.

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  1. I'm glad you shared that it is a mess. Some of your words clicked for me in that I wonder if writing the posts isn't 'easier'. It's a deadline with limited words, & first draft work really, some feedback, but none that one has to do anything about. So in the habit of posts & then being thrown into the mess of publishing a book can be tricky, and you have expressed it just that way. Fortunately you have a big reward at the end-your book! Thanks for sharing this, Ruth.

  2. “I like to think it's because I've crossed over. I've moved from being a person who writes to being a writer.”

    These words give me shivers of joy! Are there more delicious words right now? What a happy, messy, place to be. Your journey is more than inspiring–it is real.

  3. I really like that you are a messy writer now…I totally related to what you wrote. “I've moved from being a person who writes to being a writer.” That's the line that got me.

  4. Um, is it bad that I was giggling while reading this? After all, I did get to witness your descent into the messy pit. And aren't you glad you did? Just look at all the cool stuff you find when you dig around in the mess!
    Love this bit of reflection, and glad this process you're growing into is feeling more comfortable–more like you.