A Wayward Writing Process

Celebrate This Week [No. 234]


Mid-week, Jordan said, “I’m still thinking about all the fun I had last weekend.” His words struck me and I collected them in an Instagram post. IG has become a sort of writing notebook for me. I like the way it holds ideas and I like the way I can weave some words in the comments.

I used to chastise myself for not being tidier. I spent a number of years feeling like I wasn’t good enough and that my writing process was inept. Today I’ve come to believe that it is a beautiful mess. I like the complexity of it and I like the way the words whirl.

My writing process is a mix of personal stories, research, classroom stories and cooking in my kitchen, raising kids and laughing. It’s not systematic; it is charming.

(Except when it’s not.)

There’s no reason to try to define it; I do not need to make it more complicated than it needs to be. The words just line up, when I stop worrying about whether they’ll make something worth reading.

It happens in the IG post box, and I have something completely unexpected — both in meaning and in craft. If I take the time, and meet the page every. single. day (whether I feel like it or not), then the words stack and create something bigger, something bookish, something that is completely unexpected…and very satisfying.

If it happens in my IG notebook, then it can happen when I draft something bigger. I celebrate the words I stack in informal ways because they provide fuel for me to stack something more intentionally.

These words accompanied Jay’s quote and photo on IG this week. I’ve highlighted the places where the words danced and it surprised me and made me smile.

Becoming a forever family is a gnarled journey. It isn’t easy to overcome being scraped by the ugly of the world. It isn’t easy to keep loving people who are hard to love.

The truth is, the only way to turn darkness to light is to love. To love when you’re tired of loving. To love when you’ve been hurt. To love when it’s not worked int he past.

Then somehow, in a way that is more miracle than magic, you wake up one day and the good has overcome the ugly. The light has poked through the darkness. Not just for a moment, not just a glimpse, but there is light.

Light doesn’t make love easy, but it does make it possible. I’m realizing more and more that light comes in silly disguises like laser tag and hot wings.

On this Holy Week, I will remember that turning darkness to light isn’t fancy or formulaic. More often than not it is a choice to lavish someone with fun and to smile while you’re doing it.

Writing a first draft of a book is difficult for me. It is one of the hardest things I do. When I look back at this IG post, I remind myself that it, too, is first draft writing. This started as nothing and then the words stacked. I like stacking words.

I’m going to take this truth with me as I face my first draft of a new book this week. I’m 17,000 words into it, a little more than one-third of the way finished. This is where first draft writing, for me, becomes nearly impossible. It’s past the point of new and exciting and it is far from seeing the end and knowing I will finish.

I’ve learned that avoiding the page will not help me. Since I do not like first draft writing, I am determined to finish it as quickly as possible. It is always easier to revise something than nothing.

May 1 is my deadline to complete the first draft. I celebrate trusting my uncanny and wayward writing process, because I know it’s not about controlling my writing process, but about giving space for the words to find their way.

This post is part of a weekly offering to celebrate in the middle of the muddle. I hope you join the celebration!

Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Whenever it fits in your life, add your link.  Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.

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  1. I saw the IG post and just smiled at Jay’s words. He’s come a long ways. And it’s funny, because I was noticing how the writing on you IG posts some days seem poetic, some days seem like a blog post waiting to happen. I always enjoy them. I may have to start wiring more on my IG posts. Maybe I can make those part of my daily writing.

    As always, you share smiles and inspiration.

  2. So much to ponder here, Ruth. These statements resonate loudly with me: “This started as nothing and then the words stacked. I like stacking words.” and “It is always easier to revise something than nothing.” and “it’s not about controlling my writing process, but about giving space for the words to find their way.” Blessings to you and yours as you tackle your first draft.

  3. Wonderful thoughts mixing together to form a beautiful rationale for first draft writing, Ruth. “Giving space for the words to find their way.” The magic that happened so far with your writing should get you over the hump of meeting your deadline. I applaud you for your persistence and progress.

  4. I love how you write about first drafts here. I have so much to learn about writing, so much work to do — but when I read your words, and your process, it really makes me feel like I’m not alone in my feelings about writing! Thank you.

  5. Loved reading this IG post this week. And I love your reflections on turning darkness to light. Blessings to you this month as your push through the first draft. Love the trust in your own writing process as you’re “…giving space for the words to find their way.” Hugs and Happy Easter!

  6. Happy Easter to you and your family, Ruth. I love the way you link writing and family – both take love, patience, forgiveness, and faith. Here’s to that first draft being completed!

  7. I like your idea of writing more on Instagram, too, Ruth, the beginnings of capturing all that you want to save. Happy Easter to you and your wonderful family. It makes me smile to think of Jay’s wonderful time with hot wings, laser tag and his friends!

  8. Happy Easter and happy writing too. Messy is okay. Any way that gets words together and on the page is okay whether that is a notebook, laptop, instagram, post-it notes or anything that helps.