Thursday, March 5, 2020

the Writing Process

The Writing Process.  Or, how to make OCD work for you.

Many of you know me. Some know me well, some a bit, and some of you not at all. Some have read all of my books, some one or two, others have not.

I was in business in one form or another my entire adult life. I retired in 2010. For hobbies, I started doing what I always loved and wanted to do but never had the time. Writing, and photography.

Photography: You've seen the photos I post almost everyday. Ad nauseam. Latin for “to nausea”. I keep posting photos, day in and day out. I'm sure many of you are tired of it and just scroll on by. Yet I do it, day after day. Why?

Writing: First it was magazine articles, then it was blogs, and now books. When I decide to write a book, I generally don't have not much of an idea as to what it is. I always have a vague idea, like “I think I'll write a novel about Sasquatch”. Then I sit down and write it. And write, and write,and write, and write, and write, and write, and write. Ad nauseam.

Here's the problem. I can't stop.

Now understand that we all have two brains. No, really. We have a conscious brain that gets you through the day. But then we have an unconscious brain. That's the one that runs in the background all the time. You can't stop it, or even pause it. You can't remember something and so you move on with other things. Your conscious brain stops thinking about it. Your subconscious doesn't stop and continues working. It comes up with the answer. Example; you can't remember someone's name. You go on with your daily business. And then the name suddenly pops into your head. Maybe days later.

I love to write, but there's a problem. Once I start, I can't stop. I'm obsessed with writing. I'm compulsive about it. Obsessive. Compulsive. Obsessive-compulsive. OC... D. That's it. OCD.

So when I start goofing on people on Facebook, or imparting my political wisdom, my unconscious brain is still working on writing say, a book. I can't turn it off. Not until I finish the book. So I might flip from FB suddenly and go back to the book. I write and write, wondering where is this stuff coming from? My unconscious brain.

I can write day or night. It doesn't matter. I'll be sound asleep and my unconscious brain wakes me up with a really great idea. The best idea. Only I can write this. It should have been written long ago, but that's OK. OK, I'll stop Trumping now. Hey, I just made up a word. Good one, unconscious brain!

I have two novels on the market. Each is about 80,000 words, which is a full length novel. Each one took me only three weeks to write. Some people can't even read a novel in three weeks let alone write one.

But when I'm OCD writing, I tend to keep weird hours. I do bizarre things. I can slip into one of my characters and post strange things on Facebook. I'm writing. That is part of the process for me. My conscious brain is on Facebook while my unconscious works on the book. It is all part of the process.

OCD writing must be why so many authors have retreats. So they don't bother those around them. Like Hemmingway. He isolated himself in Key West. But, like Hemmingway, they may crash and burn. They may go nutty and shoot themselves. Like Hemmingway. To prevent that, I have to physically leave my apartment retreat. I walk, I might watch TV (on my laptop. I don't have TV), I might shoot pool. Anything to get away.

I'm on my eighth book, and to ease up on the OCD writing I'll do anything. Yesterday, I walked about a mile and a half to give one of my books to our town library. I stopped at our post office to mail out a book. If I don't consciously step back, I'll start OCD writing again. And when I do that, I have a book done in three weeks. That's a problem. I rarely sleep and when I do, it's odd hours. I might not eat, being too busy writing to stop and eat. Not eating puts me in the hospital., besides losing weight like crazy. I've lost three pounds in a month writing my current book project. I might forget things, like appointments or doing my taxes. It's all part of writing.

It's the process.