My Writing Process: A Blog Hop

“Writing process” is such a loaded term. It conjures up the many recipes for rhetorical success that writing instructors and other educators shove down students’ throats. I’ve done it to students myself, knowing full well that while enumerated writing processes are based on proven methods, there’s far more art than science when it comes to crafting good rhetoric, even for a technician like me. And no recipe can replace the easy magic that comes with practice, practice, practice.

I’ve done it to students myself, knowing full well that while enumerated writing processes are based on proven methods, there’s far more art than science when it comes to crafting good rhetoric, even for a technician like me. – See more at: http://www.thenomadiceditor.com/?p=981&preview=true#sthash.5PyVxVOE.dpuf

I’ve done it to students myself, knowing full well that while enumerated writing processes are based on proven methods, there’s far more art than science when it comes to crafting good rhetoric, even for a technician like me. – See more at: http://www.thenomadiceditor.com/?p=981&preview=true#sthash.5PyVxVOE.dpuf

For several years, I was out of practice. After transitioning from student of writing to professional editor, my writing practice came only from memos and the like. Then I decided to pack it in, pack it up, and hit the road, with the intention of writing more than I was editing—with this blog representing one part of my strategy.

But really, I owe this travel blog to Ms. Tammy Burns. We met through our other lives as editors, and when I told her I was going to start travelling long term, she encouraged me to make my blog a real thing—not just a “letters home” exercise. And she recruited me to write for Travel + Escape, which made the moniker of “travel writer” far more legit. I will always be grateful for her help, her high praise, her proven skill as a travel buddy, and her ability to capture a moment with great poetry (and without false sentiment). So, when she nominated me for this “blog hop,” I couldn’t refuse.

Here are my answers to this hop’s four questions about my writing process.

1) What am I working on/writing?

At this very moment, pedagogy for a cultural anthropology textbook. Fun times. (No, really, it is fun times.) I never got to take anthro, so this is a bit of a treat, but really hard. I read the manuscript chapter, and then write the learning objectives and end-of-chapter questions that will eventually accompany it.

Next up, updating quizzes, PowerPoint slides, and other learning materials to accompany a recently updated EMS textbook—apparently, the standards for doing CPR have changed, again.

I do have a whole list of topics for posts on this blog, and even some rough drafts, but unfortunately, no one wants to pay me to write them, so they are on the back burner. I’m hoping that I will soon be able to focus more on this blog and turn it into some sort of going concern. But for now, I writes whats pays da bills.

A pink dolphin surfaces near the boat.

See this guy? I’ve been meaning to write about the day we hired a long-tailed boat for an expedition to see the pink dolphins of Khanom. Sadly, this is just one of several posts currently on the back burner.

2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

There are lots of great travel blogs out there—some that tell good stories and some that are successful, and some that do/are both. But for every fine example, there are literally hundreds that are not good and even some that are embarrassingly bad, on many different levels. I like to think my efforts are better than most.

As a writer, I craft and build. I don’t sit down and write from beginning to end and then hit publish. I move sentences around, I rephrase, I move things back. I tweak. A lot. And while I write long, especially for the blog format, I like to think my work is concise and coherent.

And I really contemplate the stories I plan to tell and the information I decide to share. I like to think that I don’t waste my readers time with banal minutiae, even in run-of-the-mill listicles. And I am very conscious of my place of privilege as a Canadian citizen and a person of relative means who can travel freely in relative safety (even as a woman). I do my best to avoid simplistic and patronizing assessments of the world I travel through. I see a great deal of cultural bias and ethnocentrism on travel blogs, usually stemming from a lack of rhetorical awareness or an honest-to-goodness ignorance of the world, rather than a ethnocentric worldview.

So, I think my work stands out because I’m a very careful writer who is very conscious of structure and style, tone and voice. I work hard to get it as right as I can. (Although, I’m a terrible editor of my own work, so my blog posts are not as correct as they ought to be.)

But compared to most good bloggers, I lack volume. I’m not frequently inspired to write—so if I haven’t been asked to write something, it stands a very poor chance of being written. Consequently, my blog lacks focus and breadth of content—at the moment. But give it some time, as I’m hoping that will change.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Usually, it’s because someone is paying me. No one pays me to write this blog (although, I was paid to write the posts that originally appeared on the Travel + Escape website; sadly, that website has stopped soliciting editorial content from actual travellers/writers, so it may be some time before I get paid for this blog again).

I also get paid to write books for young readers. I don’t call them children’s books, because that seems to conjure up visions of being a storybook author, which I am not. Because I’m smarter than fifth-graders, I write non-fiction books for them. I’m given a topic and a format and I write the book as requested by the publisher. And the publisher pays me a fee in exchange for my natural copyright. (I don’t collect royalties, so no need to go out and purchase my books as a gesture of support—if you want to support me, hire me to write something else.)

I also write educational materials. Pedagogy, mostly. (What?) Learning objectives, study questions, case studies. Rather boring, actually. But I like it. And after years of editing textbooks, I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

I come from teacher stock, so I think my writing is at its best when I’m teaching my audience. While I like telling good stories, they don’t seem to come to me very often, and because I’m an extremely reserved and private person, sharing my personal experiences doesn’t come easy. But I enjoy writing service pieces, and as a student journalist I enjoyed writing features (i.e. telling other people’s stories). And I enjoy writing information books for kids, and how to’s, and tips for travellers, and guidelines and advice for my authors (when I’m wearing my editing hat).

So, I guess the short answer is, I write to teach and inform.

4) How does my writing process work?

This depends very much on what I’m writing. At the moment, I’m very lucky to have a flexible and easygoing existence in a quiet beach town in Thailand. I have few obligations and when the mood strikes, I’m free to sit down and get it all out. Which is exactly what happened for this post, and most of the materials I write for myself.

Usually, ideas and rough drafts come to me while I’m walking or swimming, both of which I can do for hours. I will float in the sea or walk along the shore of my virtually deserted beach, muttering to myself. And after my swim or walk, if I’m inspired to write something, I just sit down and get it all down on paper (or rather, on screen)—usually after I’ve showered and poured a big glass of ice tea. It may take some time to turn it into a finished product, but the important thing is to get it all out there, in writing.

But that’s for more creative stuff. For my more structured paid work, I outline and construct, piece-by-piece.  I’ve relied on outlines my entire writing career—way back to my high school essays. And I build line-by-line, paragraph-by-paragraph.

A chocolat treat looks down over my iPad and notebook as I struggle through an assignment.

Sometimes, when you have to drag each word out of you, a chocolate frappe float is the only part of the process that matters.

And I revise. Oh boy, do I revise. It’s a professional hazard, my being an editor. When I write, I feel like it’s NEVER finished. But no matter what it is (a blog post, a memo, a book spread), I always put it away for a while and then come back to it to revise. And then come back again to revise and edit. And then come back at least one more time.

And when I have to write something that isn’t exciting or creative and doesn’t want to flow easily from my brain to my fingers as they fly across the keyboard, I use bribery. Usually treats. Finish this much and you can go for a swim. Go pick up a fancy frozen drink and then sit down and get to work. If you get it done, you can watch an episode of whatever show you’re currently binging. When it’s about a deadline and a paycheque, I sometimes have to drag it out of me. And I procrastinate by doing other productive things (which makes me feel better about avoiding work).

For the freely flowing stuff, my general process is thus: Draft at night (or whenever the mood strikes). Revise in the morning. Revise again the next morning. Proof after lunch.

What happens next on the blog hop?

I must now nominate three more writers with blogs to continue this hop (yep, it’s basically a chain letter). I believe this has been a mostly travel blog exercise, but for a change of pace, I’m going to nominate three writers from different rhetorical spheres. With any luck, they’ll have more insightful things to say about the writing process than I.

And the nominees are…

Adrienne Montgomerie. A columnist at Copyediting.com, Adrienne writes and edits for a living with a lovely collective known as dameditors. Her blog about editing is called Right Angels and Polo Bears. And if you don’t know why that’s funny, you need to work very hard on your editorial eye.

Vanessa Ricci-Thode. Author of the fantasy novel Dragon Whisperer, Vanessa is also an editor who specializes in fiction. The blog on her website, Thodestool Literary Services, is all about writing and reading.

Christine Estima. Christine is a playwright, novelist, critic and performer who also happens to travel a lot and writes about her experiences on her delightfully titled blog The Spadina Monologues. Christine is in the process of relocating from London to Berlin, and will be retracing her old European backpacking route.

Ladies, I look forward to learning more about your process in one week’s time.

And what say you, dear reader? What are you writing, why are you writing it, and how do you go about putting pen to proverbial paper?