A process is a systematic series of actions or steps taken to achieve an end. But not all processes begin in a systematic manner. In fact, many times, they happen by accident. That's what happened with me and my writing process. And it was the best accident of my life, I might add.
Almost two years ago, my friend Holly joined a writing group. She'd been trying to launch a new writing/blogging venture, praying for guidance and fellowship and encouragement, when she found a beat up piece of paper in her courtyard. It was a flyer advertising a writing club in Ladera Ranch for women looking to find and give life to their narrative voices. As it turns out, the group facilitator had only posted three flyers around town. Kismet!
Like Holly, I'd always written: poems, short stories, personal essays, but I wrote for me, not for general consumption. Like Holly, I'd always felt like I had a story to tell, but I was waiting for a time when my desire to put pen to page would fit in with the rest of my life. (I think I was also waiting for the the wizard to dole out my dose of courage.) And like Holly, I was looking for a sign. Little did I know, it was sitting right in front of me and we'd be joining forces soon.
She invited me to join the group. That's how I became the recipient of Holly's hand-me-down fate. During my second meeting with the group, I read a portion of my new book for feedback and criticism. I was so nervous I thought I would have an anxiety attack right in the middle of chapter one. But I got through almost fifteen pages and I was fueled by the feedback the group provided. So I kept writing. Really writing. I wrote from a place inside me where ideas flourished. I wrote scenes as they played out in my mind. I wrote paragraphs that I didn't recognize when I re-read them. I wrote until the plot firmed up its edges, the edits tightened up the conflict, and the characters became family. I wrote until the words had all been written.
My writing process didn't begin systematically. It wasn't the traditional, outline-draft-edit process, but I got to the series of steps eventually. As I edited, I created a plot line, a character chart and a synopsis. Interestingly, the absence of these things on day one gave me and my story creative freedom and it was better that way.
Almost two years have passed since Holly shared her writing goals with me. In that time, we have researched all things writing, we have started a blog to build our writers' platform, we regularly write columns for the newspaper, and we have refined our writing skills. I have finished my first book (seeking literary representation now) and the series we are co-writing has a strong foundation, in fact, a formal outline spans the wall in my garage, and we are almost done with book one. With thoughtfulness we are implementing a system of actions. Leaving room for creativity, we are taking steps toward our goal. And most of all, we are embracing our writing process, the one that works for us.
So when dreaming and planning and setting those goals, be flexible. Look for the signs, begin somewhere and then embrace your process, whatever shape it may take. I may have stumbled upon my writing endeavor by accident, but my dream, my passion, my process, is anything but. Neither is yours.