The other day a friend was telling me how his dad, who was a professor in the business school at the University of Washington, wrote books. He’d shut himself in his home office and for two months would just sit there with a note pad nearby. Sometimes he’d watch a game or organize stacks of papers. When my friend would come in and ask his dad what he was doing, his dad would say, “I’m writing a book.” My friend would say, “Nah, you’re listening to your police scanner.“
And then in the third month, my friend’s dad would start typing and be done with the manuscript in a month.
After telling this story my friend turned to me and asked, “How do you write?”
I have a very specific time to write each day. It’s in the morning after I’ve gotten up at 5 or 5:30am to do yoga and meditate and before I get the kids up at 6:45 am. I tackle ideas that have been floating around my head because of things I’ve heard, read or have been struggling with.
That time of day for me is when I’m most hopeful, mystical, and quiet. I can hear the small whisper at my core and I have better access to my creative muse.
Then the day starts and its drop-offs, pick-ups, doing my day job. By the evening, my creative muse has been pounded into bits. It’s tired, critical and tells me I don’t have anything worth saying. I don’t look in the mirror at that time of day because I will find fault with what I see. I tend to be pretty quiet in the evenings because I’m as shallow as a muddy puddle and just as unclear.
So I almost always write from my renewed self and never include words from my salty self. As I laid this out to my friend, the downfall of my approach became apparent to me. It’s like cooking with only sugar and no salt. I write from a place from which I’ve shaken off the dust that collects during each day and even my suffering looks shinier.
I’m only covering about half (or less) of my human experience. Not the times that I say “sh!t, f*&k, d@mn under my breath when I step on a kids toy in the dark and definitely not when I very badly want to blame my kids for causing me pain. I don’t write in the times when it truly feels like nothing is going to work out. And certainly not the times when I feel like the life I’m leading is unrelentingly tough.
I can meditate later in the day and get back some equanimity. But there’s a Buddha quote that says, “Sleep is the best meditation.” Indeed it is my best way to remove the tarnish of life and reinvigorate my creative muse. But if I want to write about the fullness of life, I need to remember it’s the whole day experience.
My take is that my friend’s father wrote a book in one month because he had spent the time to gather himself and then could get it all down in one go. It’s a good reminder to me that I need to gather all of me to bring to the writing table lest I leave out all the spice.
What’s your creative process? When do you write?
For more posts like this – a little story-telling mixed with philosophy, please visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com or follow me on Instagram @wynneleon
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76 thoughts on “When I Write”
Oh Wynne, this is one of your best posts ever! I love the honesty, wisdom, and insight that transports you to the keyboard. Regardless of how you get there, the result is always insightful and full of shiny gems to brighten up my day. Clearly, your muse has nothing else to do but help to improve your writing word by word —if that’s even possible—because it’s pretty perfect just the way it is! On a side note, I often wonder how you manage to squeeze in the time throughout your busy day to answer every single comment that comes your way. Impressive!
Agree with you, Julia! 😊
Thanks, Jane! 🙂 <3
Oh, Julia!! Clearly the way I squeeze in time to answer comments is because like this one, so delightful that they defy time and space and exist just in love!! Sending lots of love to you my friend! <3 <3 <3
Another great post! Thanks for giving us a peek at your process, Wynne. And I’m with you — by the end of the day, whatever muse was in my corner…earlier in the day…has also been, as you said so well, “pounded into bits”. Oh yeah. With you, friend! xo! 😊
I’m laughing about our muses, Vicki. Perhaps we need to send them out for drinks so they can just leave us alone by that time of day. 🙂 <3
I’d down to do that…I think they need some sort of “release”. If not drinks, maybe a good workout. I’m sure you could help devise something that would kick their butts??? 😉
A workout – better idea. I like brainstorming with you, Vicki!
Love this! I have a similar process. My husband and I wake up at 5am. He heads to work and I have about an hour to flesh out ideas before I go to my day job. It definitely is when the creative juices flow best in that quiet hour alone in the house with my morning coffee. The little flashes of inspiration I get during my lunch break always come out a bit messier (in writing technique and the actual content) than the morning’s effort. So nice to know I’m in good company.
What an interesting comment where you delineate the difference between your morning writing and the flashes that come at lunchtime. So interesting, isn’t it? Thank you so much for reading and commenting!
This is fun. I’m with you about being “as shallow as a muddy puddle and just as unclear” in the evenings. I’m a morning lark writer. I know that everyone’s writing process is personal which makes it delightful to learn how others do their thing. In your case, you do your thing very well!
Oh, Ally – thank you for the kind comment. I’m glad to know that I’m in very good company if you feel the same way in the evenings. And you’re right – it is delightful to learn how others do their thing. Thanks for sharing yours with me!
Beautifully said. Ironically just yesterday I wrote about how I get inspired to write. I enjoyed reading how you write, thank you for the insight.
Thank you, Alex!
You wrote you meditate. Well, I do too and that sometimes gives me ideas even though that is not the point of a good meditation session. Basically I write whenever I feel inspired. Since that can conflict with good sleep when the idea pops up at bedtime, I don’t do anything creative after 7 pm. After that time, each idea is jotted down, ready to be processed in the coming days.
An excellent point, Pieter. Sometimes meditation gives me ideas too – and then it’s so hard not to jump up and starting writing! And I love your suggestion to jot down ideas after 7pm to wait to be processed.
Thank you, Brian!
One of my favorite writing quotes is one I rely on to get writing done: I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately It Strikes every morning at nine o’clock.
That is such an awesome quote!! I’m remembering that every morning from now on. Thanks for sharing it!
I think that it’s clear that there is no routine to what I write, but that is the nature of having a blog that is, by design, meant to share the random moments of life, not one that follows a schedule or intended purpose- regular and large scale publication. Funny moments, or joyful moments can be written almost right away without consideration to timing. Other topics need to be mulled over, digested and then laid out. That can take days and only be done when I feel open enough and reflective enough to tackle the topic.
I like your delineation between the topic, Deb. Yes, some do take more time to process – sometimes weeks (speaking for myself, that is). And the funny and joyful moments – aren’t they so fun when they just write themselves?
I’m not a morning person and so I write after work, but I need a break between work and creatively composing a story. For me its all about the transition. Sometimes that’s a cup of tea and cleaning up my email or its doing a workout .
A great point about creating that transition time, Jan. Maybe those activities are also sort of a “gathering” of yourself too.
I can so relate to this, Wynne, I think sometimes that is what stops me from publishing a blog post-feeling like I can’t because I’m not able to come up with anything particularly sunny to say. I’m all over the board when it comes to when I write. I shoot for daily, and most days I meet that target. Usually in the morning (though never as early as you!) and sometimes later at night. In the afternoon as well, like now. It’s in those moments when the house is quiet, which can vary due to having our rambunctious, inquisitive 8 year old grandson here frequently.
I like “in those moments when the house is quiet,” Rhonda. Yes, that is the first requirement (I’d assume for most, right?). But that’s so cool that you can write at any time of day!
I’ve wondered how you fit in the time to write such quality content. Especially on a regular basis. Love hearing your methods.
Beyond that, I love your transparency, Wynne. You’re an inspiration. I want to be just like you when I grow up. 😉🤍
Ah, Kendra – you do my heart good. Thank you, my friend!
Your dad’s friend sounds a little like Lao Tzu’s writing process when he was writing contemplatively in Nature or maybe like Thoreau on Walden Pond. Speaking of Lao Tzu, your process reminds me of Dr. Wayne Dyer’s as captured by himself in the film The Shift. A coworker friend was just asking me about my writing process. Best way I can describe it is a spiritual form of whittling. I consider my professional writing, including drafting emails or taking notes at student support team meetings as part of that. Seems that there’s something to the writing wisdom about getting out the trash. For my the magic of the craft is in the process- it’s a walking meditation with a bibliotherapeutic intent.
A spiritual form of whittling – that’s good, Ari! And you are right, there is something to the writing wisdom about getting out the trash. Part of the whittling. Thanks for reading and adding this perspective.
I don’t know how you manage to write these meaningful posts every day with all the other things you do! Kudos, Wynne.
I write whenever my heart tells me to do so. I have tried sitting down to write daily as a disciplinary exercise but if I am not inspired or have something that has touched my heart, I can’t write. However, I have been working on writing to prompts from other bloggers, and it works if the prompts touch my heart. So, writing one or two posts a week works for me.
I admire people who can write daily.
I love that you write when called to do so, Chaya. I think that implies some deep listening which is in my opinion where our best stuff comes from. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your process my friend!
It’s good having established a routine like yours (I think it’s unavoidable with two kids). As far as I am concerned, there are periods of time when I write a lot, and periods when I don’t write at all and I dedicate that time to edit my previous writings, hoping that some new ideas will pop up in my mind. Inspiring post Wynne!
What a great process to use the time to write or to edit, Cristiana. That sounds like it suits both the creative and process side so well – which you bridge so beautifully!
I do not have a process to write as much as I am ready to write ALWAYS. I carry a pocket size notebook with me at all times. I have taken to jotting notes on my phone (not my preferred method to ever write). I do enjoy early morning writing. But I also enjoy pulling over in my car when something strikes me, and writing down my thoughts or ideas. I will write anywhere, anytime. 🙂 😉
Love the idea to keep a notebook with you at all times. And clearly your process works for you because wow do you publish such beautiful and touching writing. Thanks for sharing your process!
You’re welcome, and thank you!
Great post Wynne. I try to write at the same time but I’m also open to writing when the muse strikes – often that happens when I least expect it. Sometimes I’ll be walking in a park and an idea just comes to me. I’ll grab my phone and just type. The words will just kind of flow out of me – without any thought. That often results in my most interesting pieces of writing. I also think it’s useful to use your emotions. In the morning it sounds like you’re very zen Wynne – that comes across in your writing. Sometimes I get angry about something and feel I should write about it, so I do – while I’m angry. The post ain’t always pretty when I do, but that anger can add power. I like to say emotions are a writers best friend. As for writing a book. I suspect it’s best to put in the ground work first – do loads and loads of reading/research before hand and then try to write it in one go. I believe you want to take advantage of those all important flow states. It’s easier to stay in it then get it in it. 🙂🙏
I love your description, AP2. Especially of using one’s emotions to an advantage – I need to learn how to do that! And the flow state – you said it perfectly – all important!! Thanks for adding these great thoughts!
This post got me thinking I should probably write in the morning more often… I write from my salty self too much! But I usually sift out a lot of it when I edit LOL
I’m laughing about this comment, Ash. Thank goodness for editing – either way! 🙂
Hey, good post
This issue is so live with me right now! I even left an extensive comment on another site advising a type A to go easier on themselves right before reading your post.
We really do need to be whole beings, and though we may try and try to manifest only the finer sides of ourselves we do not necessarily succeed in making ourselves better loved ~ as sometimes our shortcomings actually can. Truly, as Gibran writes, the black thread is woven with the white.
With regard to the relationship of this paradigm to the creative/publication process, there are a couple of works on my site accessible by search bar. “Unworthy Poetry” springs to mind.
It is fascinating, is it not, the superindividual nature of the creative process? I’ve read of writers who always wrote naked, lying down, or in the bath. I’ve known several writers who swear by the practice of walking.
Myself, I relax the mind and get out of the way, allowing works precomposed elsewhere than this mundane plane (those “Muses”) to stream through in about the amount of time it would require to create a fair handwritten copy ~ and am closing in on 4,000 original offerings in this way, some of them hundreds of lines long and in intricate patterns of rhyme and meter. Almost no editing is required.
What a beautiful comment, Ana. I love how you describe your creative process. And to have that many offerings with almost no editing required – remarkable.
Gibran’s idea as you present it – the black thread interwoven with the white really rings home for me. Yes, there is no separating our whole beings.
Thank you for such a thoughtful and insightful comment!
What an eye opener for me. I never really thought about how I write but the actuality is I usually only right when I’m salty, exhausted, full of crumbling emotion. The end of my days are the heaviest, and that’s when I purge my feelings. I wonder what writing would look like for me if I found that equanimity.. if I found the stillness in the morning and allowed myself to feel worthy of my own creative thoughts.
Thank you for sharing this.
I appreciate you.
An incredibly lovely and insightful comment, Sami. Thank you! I’m curious to hear if you try to mornings and the result!
I love this ❤️
I also make writing part of my daily life. It is my way of conversing with my inner self.
What a wonderful way to regard the writing process! Thanks for commenting,
I write all day and especially when I’m feeling spicy, salty and dry😂🤤🌹🥳
No other way to do it or like prince one said” when you rewrite it or change it the piece will lose its emotion and won’t be it’s original masterpiece”
Spicy, salty and dry – love it, Gabriel! And what a great quote from Prince. So true!
Wynne, I admire you for being so disciplined, organized, and productive. You juggle kids and a full- time job with your writing. When I was working full-time with a disabled husband and young children and later as a working single mother, I didn’t write very much. Being retired, I only write when I feel like it. That is a luxury I appreciate.
Many times, I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas and phrases on my mind. Usually, I scribble down some notes or a rough draft in my clipboard and go back to sleep. Sometimes I write all night, but I find that doing that makes me feel bad for a day or two.
I write poems at my leisure and edit them later, sometimes several times over a period of days. Some days I feel inspired to write notes or drafts of several poems. When I don’t feel like writing and write anyway, I am usually unhappy with the result.
When I have to wait at the doctor or dentist, I pull out my clipboard and write. I find it a positive distraction and much better than just waiting.
Love the idea of the clipboard, Cheryl. And especially in waiting rooms – what a wonderful way to harness that waiting time.
Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad that you have such a beautiful rhythm for your creativity and process!
Great post here and my creative way of writing doesn’t take that long just as this Professor who locked himself in his house just to publish a book, I walk at my own pace🔥🔥, set my own schedule and deadlines
I love that your walk at your own pace — what a wonderful phrase! Thanks for sharing your practice!
I am still in stage to figure it out 🤔
A very important stage!
What a great post. I write at random times, but I try to do it the evening, tired as I may be. I find the days moments help me write better
An interesting comment. Sounds like all the content of the day gives you fuel. Thanks for sharing that!
That is very interesting. For me, if I put myself on a set time, I’ll get heavy writers block. I usually type the idea as soon as it pops into my head.
It’s interesting how some people use set schedules, and are amazing at that scheduling while others, like me, can’t even stick to a schedule even if I tried.
That is a such an interesting contrast you point out. I love that we can be wildly divergent in our creative process and share it. Thanks for this comment!
This resonates so much with me. Thanks ♥️
Oh, I’m so glad. Thanks for commenting!
Great post. Your process is flawless. I can definitely relate. Sometimes it’s so much going on you have no choice but to take a break and come back to it. That’s why I love creating drafts. Gives me the opportunity to even give a post a title and then come back if need be. Thanks for the post and I look forward to reading more.
Yes, I like the draft process you describe. What a great way to just get a start of something to be finished later after a break. Thanks for commenting, Rickida!
I definitely let my thoughts fester a bit before writing it out. I would love to write in the peaceful early morning and although I’m awake my brain isn’t.
I like your phrase “let my thoughts fester a bit.” I can relate to letting them work themselves out and mature a little! Thanks for sharing a little bit of your process!
I guess I can say that I write to satisfy my curiosity.
Curiosity seems like a great source to work with. That’s awesome, Mireya!