Following up on my last post, “Pages Before Play,” I thought I’d share another two P’s that are a big part of the way I see my writing: Production and Process.
I lump everything related to writing into these two categories to help me stay focused on the right things. Production is really just one thing: writing. However, it’s not just any writing, but specifically fiction. Blog entries, nonfiction, emails — those all might be an integral part of my life as a writer, but none of that falls under the Production side of things. Only fiction. It’s where the vast amount of my effort, energy, and mental focus must go.
Process is everything else that’s necessary in being a professional fiction writer. Market research. Story research. Mailing manuscripts. Reading. Studying other writers. Going to conferences or workshops to further my learning and career. I lump it all together as Process, because they are part of the process you must follow if you hope to take your writing career as far as it will go. Calling it Process also helps me remember not to worry or stress about things I have no or limited control over; I just follow the process, knowing that if I do, things will work out for me in the long run. It’s too easy to obsess about minutiae that don’t matter, to pin your hopes on details that don’t pan out. Marketing short stories is a perfect example. I print a story. I come up with a market list. I mail it to the best market, in my opinion, for that story. If it comes back, I mail it to the next one on the list. In between, I try not to think about it at all. Hard to do sometimes? Sure, but I’ve gotten better at it over the years.
The fact of the matter is that nothing in the Process category matters all that much if you aren’t producing. And if you want to do one thing that helps you find success more quickly, then you should produce more. Write another page a day. Or five. Or ten. Most aspiring professional writers don’t write nearly enough, a lot of them falling prey to the thinking that landing a great agent or making that contact at a conference is the key to success. If you go to a conference, sure, try to make contacts. And when you’re actually mailing your work, put some time in to thinking about the best places to send it. But most of the time, you shouldn’t be thinking or worrying about those things at all.
Whenever I find myself worrying about things outside my control, I tell myself to just produce and let everything else be part of the process I follow. Not only has this helped me become more efficient with my energy and time, it’s made me happier, too.
- The Undercover Economist by Tom Harford. Great book on applying economics to every life and the bigger world picture.
- Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner. Stirring, multi-viewpoint book about a number of women all dealing with different aspects of pregnancy and being new mothers. Her writing was highly accessible, and she brought all of her characters to life. I loved the structure of the book, too.
- The Lonely Silver Rain by John D. MacDonald. I’ve read five or six of the Travis McGee series, and I’ve loved them all. This was the twenty-first book, the last one published before MacDonald died, and though I don’t think it was written as the capstone of the series, it was a fitting end to it. He’s the kind of writer that makes me want to be a better writer, too.