In his book On Writing, Steven King does every would-be writer the favor of outlining his process. I love hearing about people's processes and rituals, especially talented people committed to their practice. Because in my mind, writing is a practice, and ideal practice takes place daily and habitually. These are the ingredients for commitment, and commitment is essential for success.
Part of King's effective practice is to write behind closed doors, literally and figuratively. As in, he doesn't let the world into that first draft. The first draft is for him. And he also doesn't let anyone into his writing space. It's just him, the work, and Metallica on the stereo.
Like my grandfather, I work best in silence. So I can't relate in that regard. But I do get the closed door thing. Not that I have a particularly busy writing space. Or that I get interrupted all that often. But I like the idea of the closed door, the minimized distractions.
I think it's in How To Be Alone where Jonathan Franzen talks about his writing habit (or maybe it was in a New Yorker article). He talks about getting the most obsolete laptop he can find. Then taking an ethernet cable, connecting it to the Cat5 port, then cutting the cord. And for good measure, hot gluing the cable head into the port, rendering the machine incapable of everything but typing. He works in a drab New York office with nothing on the walls. Just him and the work. Distractions minimized.
I'm not so easily distracted, but I might go to that extreme to enhance my focus. I think in some ways my problem is the opposite of King's and Franzen's, really in two ways.
- They're published and I'm not.
- I have trouble letting things out from behind the closed door.
It's hard not to feel exposed and vulnerable when I let these things out into glaring daylight -- even the the inane navel-gazing that takes place on this blog. I'm not sure that's something I'll ever get over. And I'm not sure it's something I should.