Follow the Flow
Writing is creating and creating requires an idea. Sometimes the idea comes spontaneously, a gift from above that drops into your brain at the oddest moments.
One such inspiration arrived as I sped along the highway between Austin and Houston. Wishing to seize the moment I pulled over at a favorite stop in Ellinger, bought a soda, pulled out my laptop, and set myself up on a picnic table in the parking lot. Fifteen minutes later I was back in my car, relieved that a transient spark was now secure in my hard drive.
At other times ideas must be forcibly dragged into the world. I’ll sit down at my desk knowing that I must create something. With a topic in mind I’ll start spewing words into my computer and see where they take me. Not infrequently I begin with one thought in mind only to head off in a different direction entirely. Over time, I’ve learned to allow such currents to carry me along, secure in the belief that this river of artistic creation will wash me ashore at a desirable destination.
Where I write is less important to me than my environment. Preferring silence and solitude, I function best with an open-ended chunk of time, one without the looming threat of having to halt the process in deference to a dinner reservation or movie start time. I gather whatever materials I might need around me, open a document, and type.
Once I arrive at a stopping point, I’ll often print my work and settle onto my favorite couch to read it as I would a book or magazine. Glaring errors and clumsy language jump out at me more readily when I am physically relaxed. Although comfort comes less readily to me while I am sitting erect and staring at a computer screen, I do edit at my desk; I just find it easier to spot the need for certain revisions the old fashioned way, paper document and sharpened pencil in hand.
A saved document is not necessarily a finished document. Ideally, I’ll come back to my work after a day or two and read it again. Usually I’ll come across at least one phrase or paragraph that startles me with its cry for change. It helps at this stage to have another set of eyes look things over as well. I find that the more I read something I’ve written, the harder it is to spot bad writing.
There you have it, one man’s method of meeting the challenges of the creative process. Yours will be different. Both are correct. Good luck!
True West Magazine called Jeffrey Stuart Kerr’s just released third history of Austin “the most thorough history of…manifest destiny that led to the birth of the Texas capital.” The St. Louis native and Writers’ League Book Award winner lives in Austin where he is a pediatric neurologist.
WLT members are invited to the local launch of Seat of Empire: The Embattled Birth of Austin, Texas at BookPeople, 7 PM on August 22.