Harrison Middleton University

Myth of the Writing Process

Myth of the Writing Process

We’re excited that you’ve joined the conversation! At HMU, we want to continue the great authors’ conversations in a contemporary context, and this blog will help us do that. We look back to Aristotle and the early philosophers who used reason and discourse to gain wisdom and now we endeavor to do the same every day.


February 25, 2022

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.

At the end of the day, everyone likes to have a tangible, finished product. This often feels like a measure of success. For writers, however, this need is rarely fulfilled. In fact, at the end of the day, you may only have a blank page staring back in intimidation. But don’t let that blank page bully you.

Here is a hint about the life of a writer.

Sometimes writing does not look like writing. In fact, sometimes writing does not look like work. Yet it is important to remember that appearances can be deceiving.

Sometimes writing looks like deleting.

Sometimes writing looks like walking.

Sometimes writing looks like watching a movie. Or sitting down. Or meditating. Or yoga.

Very often writing looks like reading.

And as the writer ponders, reads, gathers data, or makes notes, the process feels untethered. How do all of these eclectic influences combine into one whole? Well, the answer is within the writer. Each person makes connections that another person might overlook, ignore, avoid, or entirely miss. So, for example, one day I’ll watch Richard II, and the next I’ll be reading about Romans. How will these connect? Maybe they won’t, but it is up to me to find or dismiss connections. This persistent untethered feeling of eighteen dangling threads may be the result of my generalist nature. However, many of my friends who write also speak of the same feeling, so I believe it is a fairly universal principle of the writing process.

While everyone wants a product at the end of every day, and many people ask what we do each day, the real answer might sound like “nothing.” I did not do the laundry or make a meal. I have no tips about products, traffic patterns, contracts, or coupons. The blank page at which I stare may have been full at one time during the day, but appears empty by dinner time. I might feel inspired, add a sentence or two after dinner, and then wake in the morning to delete even that.

If this sounds like a most frustrating process… that’s because it is. Toe-tapping, pencil-chewing, pacing and other tics are normal behaviors of a writer. Emotions run thin, long, high and heavy during the writing process. It is normal to be disgusted with yourself, then with others, then with time, daylight and the clock.

However, the truth is that long bouts of concentration are excruciating. In order to write well, one must examine uncomfortable places inside. For example, I might ask why does a specific event or person make me angry? Why does another make me happy? Furthermore, once a problem or idea has been identified, there is research to be done and, very likely, another narrowing of the topic which I just realized is much broader than on first thought. This process repeats. Ad nauseam.

Ironically, this post is meant to encourage. Writing requires focus, patience, and concentration and those skills benefit everyone. Sit with the uncomfortable. I mean, really, truly sit with it. Become friendly. Open a conversation. And when you can, write it down as best you can (editing can be done anytime). Do not worry about a daily product, per se. Instead, focus on the goal ahead and bear in mind that the process takes time and dedication. It will most likely take more turns than a potter’s wheel. Keep faith in the process which benefits you, your future work, and all of us readers as well.

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