(Originally published some time ago; recently revised; still quite relevant.)
Many years ago, in another life, I attended counseling sessions to help me through a particular rough time. I attended both personal and group counseling.
The group counseling was more of a lecture setting than a “Share with the group setting”, which I enjoyed because I’m a copious note taker plus I hate “sharing with the group”. Even as a high school student, I hated “working in groups”–either I ended up doing all the group work because I was placed with a bunch of slackers or I was placed in a group whose members were just as arrogant and know-it-all as I, and we all know that a nuclear reaction occurs when a bunch of teen-age arrogant, know-it-alls are all grouped together.
Truth be told: I preferred the slacker-moron group to the know-it-all group.
But, I digress.
Fast forward like a TiVO to today.
Actually, last week.
During Spring Break, I spent much of my time cleaning my writing room and organizing my files. (You can see pics of that adventure here.) I was going through old files and throwing trash formally labeled as “important stuff” away.
I re-filed and organized other “important stuff” I am still too attached to.
I came across one folder of papers that were yellowed and written with a hurried hand in pencil.
One particular leaf caught my attention. Here’s what is written on it:
Step 1–describe the problem
Step 2–describe the results you want
Step 3-gather information
Step 4-think of alternative solutions
Step 5-choose the best solution
Step 6-implement the solution
Step 7-evaluate the results; make necessary changes
Reading these seven steps, I thought, What are my writing notes doing in with my counseling notes? I need to post these on my wall to glance at as I write when I reach those moments of indecision or so-called “writer’s block”.
I posted the note to my notes wall just to the side of my monitor and in my direct line of sight.
During the past week, I’ve been glancing at what I’ve now labeled “Seven Steps to Writing.” The more I’ve glanced at it, the more I was puzzled about the note’s origin.
I went through my files again and pulled out the folder in which I had found the note–the folder with my counseling notes. All the sheaves within the folder were the same yellowed and wrinkled sheets of three-holed notebook paper, and all the notes scribbled upon them were in the same hurried pencil scrawl.
Just like the now labeled Seven Steps to Writing.
Then I had one of those Holy Cow! epiphany moments.
These Seven Steps were written during a counseling session and provided by my counselor as a guide to help me to get my life together, organize myself, learn how to evaluate and overcome problems I’d be facing, and, generally, be as happy as possible and not stress out so much about every little thing.
And the reason why I thought the Seven Steps were misplaced from my writing notes file is because these Seven Steps apply to any Writing Life situation--whether fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or essay–as well as any living situation I might face.
I laughed–one of these I get it! laughs when a Life Truth tickles my soul–and my eyes saw Life, the Universe, & Everything a bit more clearly.
I don’t live what I write but I write what I live.
I’ve chosen the Speculative Fiction field as my particular brand, and I’m sure many think I indeed live in a horrified futuristic fantasy world.
I don’t live in a horrified futuristic fantasy world.
But, I do use my writing to try to understand, to fix, to explain my World through the elements of horror, science speculation, and the mythical elements of the Human Experience.
And the best way for me to accomplish this as a Writer is to follow these Seven Steps, which I’ve been doing instinctively since that life-changing counseling session.
I just feel so happy having found concrete proof that I’m really okay with Life, the Universe, & Everything–which includes my Writing Life.
PS: There is more of craft in writing than art. I know a few of the MFA Creative Writing gurus will disagree. However, writers have more in common with blacksmiths than with philosophers. We hammer away at the forge of Story, pounding our red hot words into a shape that will not only be pleasing to our readers but also purposeful and useful.
Read up on my latest project, Popinjay, a horrifying story of identity, love, and betrayal in world obsessed with the politics of personal perfection: