A couple of weeks ago, my friend and fellow blogger Rodalena asked me if I would be interested in taking part in a blogging meme concerning the writing process. She had been asked to participate by a friend of hers whose blog has become so popular that she’s been featured on sites like The Huffington Post. Honestly, I’m such a huge fan of Rodalena’s writing that I immediately accepted her invitation due to the sheer honor of being asked before I really thought much about what I was agreeing to. I don’t have to give up a kidney, or anything like that, but by agreeing I was signing on to write a post about my writing process — which is what you’re reading right now.
I’ve never really thought about my approach to this blog as using a “process,” which might say a great deal about its quality! So deciding what to write has been a little tricky. One of the words that first jumps out at me is “procrastination.” That describes my approach to most things, and this blog is no exception. Whenever I have a large topic I want to cover, I tend to put it off far too long. Some of that is due to the amount of research involved. If the post just deals with Bible passages, that’s no problem. All my years as a fundamentalist Christian have made me very familiar with the Bible, so I don’t have trouble finding the passages I want to use for a post. But if I want to write about something more involved, like evolution, it takes me a very long time get my sources together. That’s why my on-going series on evolution only has two posts in it even though I started it a year and a half ago.
I usually think of blog post topics while I’m driving or doing yard work, but by the time I get in front of my computer, I’ve often forgotten what they were. When I do remember a topic, I start the first draft and try to work straight through to the end. It’s not uncommon for me to have trouble thinking of a beginning, so I’ll sometimes skip it until I’ve worked out the core of what I want to say. This process, my normal process, is work. The words don’t come very easy, I struggle with my phrasing, and I worry that my thoughts aren’t flowing as naturally or cogently as I want them to.
If you’re familiar with the WordPress text editor, you may know that there are two ways to write your post: you can use the Visual editor, which works like a typical word processor. Or you can use the Text editor, which has a simpler font and allows you to enter straight HTML, which is what I prefer. So if I want to use a blockquote or set some text in italics, I type in the HTML tags directly. The same goes for adding links to a post. While I prefer to write that way, it makes reading what I’ve written difficult. So once I’m ready to go back over it, I pull up a preview of the post so I can see what it will look like in its final state. At this point, I should save the post for a day or two to make sure it’s exactly what I want to say, but I rarely do that. Once I’ve read through it a few times and made a couple of revisions, I go ahead and post it. That’s my normal process.
If a post gives me more trouble than usual, I’ll leave it as a draft. Sometimes I’m able to finish it later and use it, but often I’m left with a junkyard of unfinished drafts that simply can’t be salvaged.
However, my best posts don’t go through the normal process. They flow easily, often with a raging intensity. One of my favorite posts is this one, which was written in response to someone else’s post that I strongly disagreed with. And I find that I often work that way. The posts that come out the best (in my opinion) are the ones that are written as a reaction to something else — either another blog post, or a conversation I had, or something I overheard. I don’t have to think much about these posts. I don’t get caught up in sentence structure, spelling, grammar, etc; instead, I’m thinking past all that. I’m no longer thinking about the structure of the post, but its content.
My aim with each post is conversation. While it can be fun to write a random post just for the sake of writing it, I’m usually far more interested in the conversation that may come from it. While my blog doesn’t have a ton of followers, it tends to generate some great discussions. I’ll take that over followers and traffic any day. I don’t really know why my posts tend to pull in such great conversations, though I know it has much more to do with the quality of people who follow this blog than it does with my writing. So thank you! 🙂
Before I wrap this post, I want to point you toward a good friend of mine whose blog I very much enjoy. Kent Roberts has agreed to take part in this blog meme as well, and I’m anxious to read about his writing process. His blog, Spiritual Drift, is one of my favorites. Kent is a great guy and an excellent writer. In addition to his blog, he is the author of a series of Christian fiction books. I’ve read the first one and was very impressed — looking forward to reading the next.
10 thoughts on “My Writing Process”
Love this, and congratulations, Nate.
Thanks! I just wish I could always write that way! 😉
i know the feeling.
Procrastination is my biggest problem too – I’ve even considered joining the Procrastinator’s Club, but I keep putting it off.
Hi Nate, I think most of us who have blogs go through some slightly random process as you describe. Sometimes ideas come, sometimes the words flow, but often not. I have found two things have helped me keep a little order in all this:
1. Whenever I see an interesting website, I bookmark it under a heading for future blogs. I’ve ended up with too many links, so I now have subheadings for various topics, but all still things I would like to blog about. (I should trash the links after I have used them, but I’m not that disciplined!)
2. I also have a little text file in my desktop with topics for blogging, and which I add to when I get an idea. Again, the list has become quite long, and some of those ideas will never see the light of day, but it’s always helpful.
So when I haven’t a particular idea in my mind, I go to those two sources and see if anything seems compelling. It seems to work for me. Of course this process helps with quantity, but doesn’t help with quality! 😦
Thanks for the tip, unkleE! Sometimes I send myself a text with a topic, but I would probably benefit from a more organized approach…
Arch am very concerned about your procrastination. It has denied us a chance to learn from your ongoing research.
I never have any drafts in my WP dashboard. MY posts are as random as my thoughts are and I love a good discussion too
And you are most welcome, we find this blog very interesting
“Arch am very concerned about your procrastination.”
Yeah, me too. I’ve gotten into a rut I can’t seem to dig myself out of.
This was fascinating, Nate. I relate so well to what you said about writing in response to the writing of others, especially writing you disagree with. I’ve had similar experiences with such pieces myself: for me, anger or intellectual disagreement ignites a passiin in the writing, and the thoughts just spill out.
I think the reason the comments on your posts are so thoughtful is because you make people think, and your work attracts people who want to think seriously about the issues you discuss. I also think this is why your blog is a valuable and necessary thing. Thank you for your work, Nate: it’s important and appreciated.
Thanks for the compliment, Rodalena. Can’t tell you how much it means to me, and thanks again for thinking of me when you were doing this project. I’m a big fan of your writing, and it truly was a huge honor just being one of the people you asked.