The TYPE-A Writing Process
March 6th, 2013
I saw a doctor two years ago because I hadn’t taken a s#*! in two days and called my sports medicine doctor who referred me to a surgeon as I requested. I knew something was wrong, a fissure or hemorrhoids perhaps and I needed surgery stat!
I got an appointment in less than an hour, and immediately left work. His office looked like the hallway of The Shining where the two dead twins stood, and then lied, bathed in their own blood. I hadn’t met him, but google said he had taught at John’s Hopkins Medical School as an associate professor, he was from the East Coast, and when he walked in—Jewish, very Jewish. I like that. My grandmother, who was a doc herself always said to see Jewish or Indian doctors (perhaps because she’s Jewish?) because they study harder. Grandma could totally be prejudice, but I put my life in this man’s hands.
My dad told me to always go into the doctor with a list. You never know what symptoms could be connected, so I did and my list looked something like this:
Though it was written on the back of a large card in blue ink and he kept it for my file.
He actually laughed in my face a few times before going in and popping my butt cherry. He had an amazing sense of humor and declared I had a small fissure.
I asked if he was going to perform surgery. He said no. I asked if he was going to give me cream. He said no. I asked if I should take an Epsom salt bath. He said no. I asked what the diagnosis was then. Here it was on his pad:
After that I trusted only him to perform my emergency appendectomy. I didn’t do the yoga, but I got the overall message. I like weight lifting. While stretching is very important, I would rather push 135 pounds of iron off my chest or leg press 450 than “press my third eye” to the mat.
Most people think of writer’s as coffee-alcohol drinking, introverts. In the media they’re always mousey brunettes, right? Sometimes they opt for glasses in lieu of contacts, and they’re wallflowers. It’s probably true, for some. Whenever I watch behind the scenes and into the writer’s room I see where we get our cred. I mean, seriously? You knew you were going to be on camera—ditch the star wars t-shirt and pizza boxes.
In college a few of my professors said I didn’t really fit the mold for an English major. I did a couple pageants, was extremely extroverted, dated a lot, salsa danced, practiced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, (and yeah, got an “enhancing” plastic surgery over Spring Break), and made sure I got my slice of the social world. Oh, and I don’t drink coffee—it stains your teeth, and I have very delicate enamel. Also, alcohol is gross which I decided after a sip somewhere between age 22 and 23, though I already knew that based on the horrible nostril-singe smell.
The only thing I had in common with other English majors (beyond our love of writing) was neurosis. That’s one thing we’re not short of in any Liberal Arts Department of any University, and it doesn’t always show. Growing up my parent’s detected my OCD before it got out of hand (cleanliness in case you’re wondering—no I didn’t hit people 9 times, that was my sister), amongst many other neurosis that still occupy me.
One thing is certain: writer’s observe. I simply observe by jumping in. I almost wound up on a plane to Colombia with a woman I didn’t know—serious. (Mexico first, then a connecting flight to Colombia). She thought I was nice in the line at Ross Dress for Less, and offered me a ticket which I almost took. If it weren’t for my boyfriend my organs would probably have been harvested for a good cause. I like to jump in and live with both feet, and then after I’ve made a mess I like to reflect/observe the aftermath (I call it “yes, and-ing” where if someone says “here, take this pill” at a club I have to. JK…maybe. I also traveled to Spain alone at 17 (after having lied to my parent’s that I had an escort) for a scholarship I earned. But none of this makes me a free-spirit–which I am not, and I don’t want to give that impression. I AM a Type-A calendar/planner keeping, financial budgeting, floor scrubbing, meticulous detail-oriented, control freak. I simply keep company with people who are crazy, who drive near the edge with me in the front seat, people who I can stop just before we wind up dead or in jail. I watch the gates for the cops while my friends hop the fence. At the end of the night, I still get street cred.
I did spend a reasonable amount of time between kindergarten to 4th grade watching other people live life (I was so silent a social worker sent by a teacher once showed up to my parent’s house asking why I didn’t speak or interact much to which my mother said I was observing the world. She said once I absorbed enough I would play with the others. Dad was Chief of Police so they didn’t really suspect abuse anyway. Don’t think I didn’t see this as an opportunity to finally get adopted by a French or Peruvian family and live a life of culture outside Utah). I also spent a good deal in junior high learning handwriting analysis, body language, and personality profiling, being a “know-it-all” and reading—which I swore off at age 14 when the character’s lives became more interesting than mine.
So, if you trace a person’s life far enough a writer is born, not made and the early signs are neurosis.
Many writers are sensitive people, and the writer’s I know aren’t assertive, avoid conflict of any sort, and say “yes” when they really mean “hell no.” That sucks because conflict diagnoses problems which can enhance relationships.
Building on my last post about my personal writing process that dealt with structure, theory, and life experience, here’s how I write as a diagnosed TYPE-A:
And do this for each chapter. While caught up in the writing process, creative things happen, ideas get bigger and better. Write them out, make notes in your outline that you changed something significant or small (so you can go back later and make it congruent–I call it script/novel supervising–you keep track of and check the continuity of the manuscript).
If your outline is organized this takes a few minutes because each chapter is broken down into tiny pieces, which are labelled, and summarized with changes highlighted after the fact, and new facts underlined or bolded for your attention later. You can also see how your new creative inspiration will affect your piece in the future because you already outlined it–so you can note those changes in the chapters you haven’t written yet by injecting it into the summary. Sometimes you revise, other times you re-write, but Stephen King is right: Novels should only take three months. Not three years like my first, which still isn’t ready for an agent.
In College I started a novel that was well over 300 pages that literally is 300+ pages in a single word document. I wrote it out of order–depending on inspiration, not an outline, and had a hard time keeping track of what went where because I simply bolded a small summary after the section was written above it. There is little to no continuity, and it was frustrating to add new details because I would have to scrub all those pages to find where I needed to make changes. THAT STIFLES CREATIVITY, AN OUTLINE DOES NOT.
Outlines are the engines of creativity. They propel it forward and support it. Being sloppy doesn’t. You just make tiny piles of poop you have to clean up later.
Thanks for reading. Sorry I said poop.Share on Facebook