I am a Work in Progress . . . & So is My Work
Written by
Christie Williams
August 2010
Alright, so today I want to talk a little bit more about writing, particularly for those of you considering a career as a writer (and, let's be honest: I need this as a reminder myself!) So, writing takes time and a significant amount of hard work. I only wish that some people who do not write understood how much effort is put into writing. And equally, I wish that some writers did not pretend to write so easily and effortlessly. I work as deliberately at writing as a mathematician works at an equation. Sometimes I get it right, and oftentimes I do not. But, I keep at it like that little engine who thought knew he could. Every once in a while, I produce something that makes me feel good about my life as a writer. I smile at the construction of words on a page (be it written or typed) and consider my diction and string of words in perfect order. For a brief and magical moment, my writing is in order, and so is my world (as dramatic as that sounds, it is so true). Then, I start all over again with a new project. Poof! The magic is gone . . . For me, writing is a process. It is a process in which I have to be willing and flexible to change and alter to fit both my needs and the needs of the project on which I am working. I start each project with angst until I go through a series of conversations in my head, reminding myself that I am capable. After that, I just start writing and allowing my thoughts to take over the pen or keyboard. As I am writing or typing, I refuse to edit myself or proofread--there is plenty of time for that. For now, I just allow myself to be comfortable in my writer-ly voice. I know, I just covered voices, having conversations with myself, etc. Hey, I never said that writing is pretty. For many, it looks like the behavior of the insane (and unfortunately, many writers don't have a good track record with sanity). As a writer, however, we do have to be willing to be self-encouraging. We have to encourage ourselves when there is no one around (or no one willing) to encourage us. We have to know how to find inspiration in the world around us when we are not feeling our own writing. Right now, I am typing this blog in the library while my students are scattered about finishing their first essay that is due in an hour. A student pops in and says, "Professor Williams, I have not written an essay in a while and I noticed myself doing things that I know I should not do as a writer. I am editing as I write." My response to him is that he must allow himself to produce what Anne Lammott calls a "shitty first draft" in her critically acclaimed writing handbook, Bird by Bird. I have found that if I allow myself to get my thoughts out on paper, I produce work that flows better. Also, if I write the initial draft without editing, I refrain from stifling my ideas and thoughts on paper. Psychologically, this process teaches me to better trust myself and my writing process. (Side note about my student: remember, this paper is due in an hour and his "shitty first draft" is likely to be his only draft.) Anyway, this is just the beginning of the writing process. Also, there are the reviewing, revising and editing stages! According to Lamott, no one author produces a great piece of prose at first--not even the best writers! She says, "Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much" (22). This is so reassuring to me! Writers who are just beginning, please do not be discouraged when your hear voices from your inner critic telling you your work is crap, and do not be discouraged by the tangible voices that are telling you your work is crap (i.e. professors, reviewers, friends, etc.). Believe me, as I am telling you this, I am reminding myself of the same thing. Sometimes it takes time or a special (patient) someone with a keen eye to help you rethink your ideas and get your writing to a better place. I will be reminding myself of these words in the next few weeks when I submit an article. Christie Redding Williams blogs at Diving into Beans

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