Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[process] Documenting the change

jeffvandermeer asked me today why I felt the need to talk so much about my process in general, and specifically of late the New Model Process. It's a fair question.

For one, there's the notion that process is dynamic, not static. In other words, any effort to capture a description of writing process is inherently inaccurate as well as misleading to the verge of deceptive. I see the validity of this argument, but in my own case I prefer to adopt a different perspective. To me, the value of capturing that description is that it provides a reference point, an experiential narrative which serves as a signpost for me myself, as well as for others who choose to see it that way. My professional experience lies in business analysis, so it's a very natural approach for me to take in looking at my own work.

The other is a more personal issue — why invest the sometimes considerable time and effort in these descriptions of what is a perpetually transient phenomenon? Again, for me, that's how I understand my own work. My process, while I'm writing, is almost profoundly opaque to me. All the analysis and data slicing I do from time to time is utterly post facto. It's retrospective, not anticipatory. My process evolves like my fiction, on a groping, intuitive basis. These analyses are reference points to help me understand what I've done, and do the pre-thinking and self-direction I attempt when I'm not writing in order to guide the process when I am writing.

I think of these efforts as both a map of my journey thus far, and fodder for future changes in my writing.

Some of the danger comes from a sense of prescriptivism. Just because I say something works for me doesn't mean it works for any one else. I think Jeff was concerned that I might be leading people astray by offering what looks like a recipe for success. It is a recipe for such success as I've had thus far, but I stress the post facto nature of my description. "Your mileage may vary" ought to be the writer's mantra. It most certainly applies in this case.

I offer these descriptions and ruminations because I think that information about the real-life aspects of the writing process can be a valuable tool for other folks. So many people have reached out to me, mentored me, advised me — notably including jeffvandermeer his own self — this is how I can pay back. By paying forward.

The other thing he brought up was whether I felt differently now about my prior comments on fast writing and drafting speed. Not at all, I answered. My process is evolving. I don't require absolute consistency from myself in this or anything else. Absolute consistency means lack of change, lack of progress, and an inability to learn from experience. I prefer to recalibrate technique and theory as I go. If I'm not getting smarter, what's the point?

I'm layering as I learn. I hope to keep doing that for the rest of my life. If you find the journey interesting, and my mistakes illustrative, I'm glad you're along for the ride.
Tags: personal, process, writing

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