I have enough published novels and short stories that when I say I’m an author, people believe me. With that territory comes the inevitable questions.
“What’s your process?”
The thing is, unlike grammar, plot, and voice conventions which can be taught, the actual process of writing cannot. There is no one right way. In fact, I would say that the only wrong way is one that produces no story. Writing and storytelling are art. Just like with painting, one can learn the proper way to hold the brush and apply the paint, but the image must come from your soul.
There are a million blogs (probably—I didn’t count them) giving advice on ways to be more productive, to finish stories, etc., but in reality these are little more than personal anecdotes. What worked for Van Gogh likely didn’t work for Da Vinci or Rembrandt. Just as learning the dos and don’ts of writing is a growth process, figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t is also one.
Knowing yourself is the best, most honest route to knowing how best to create.
“Where do you get ideas?”
I’ve never met a writer with a dearth of ideas. They chase us down and threaten to hogtie us unless we write them. They are spoiled, demanding creatures that insist we pay attention, no matter what we ought to be working on.
Live. Do. Be. Then listen to the world with the same openness you did as a child and you will never lack for ideas.
“How do you keep writing?”
How do I not? Oh, sure, sometimes life gets in the way, but I know I’ll get back to it as soon as I can. Sometimes I need time away from a particular story for perspective. Perhaps I am at an emotionally difficult section and need to approach it when I am in the right frame of mind. This is not the same as simply not writing. While I set one story aside, I may work on another, or work on that whole “live, do be” part of the equation.
My characters demand that I tell their stories. Abandoning them would be like saying a forever goodbye to my best friend—gut wrenching and painful.
“But writers’ block!” you say.
“Life block,” I say. Put aside the paper or screen, and listen to your soul. What does it need? Are you tired? Scared? Unhappy? Deal with whatever it is that is dampening your passion for writing and odds are good that when you try again, that blank page won’t remain blank.