the studio, on engaging beauty in a broken world, www.carolineallen.com
Sometimes writing clients come to me with a short story or an essay they would like coaching on. I am happy to read these and provide feedback, but I also notice that a common misunderstanding occurs in the psyches of some writers who focus more on product (a finished story) than on the writing process.
When writers focus too intently on one story, they lose sight of the most important aspect of writing — the process. It’s the difference between you as writer saying: “I’ve written a short story” vs you saying: “I am a writer.”
When you focus on one small product, what happens when that story or essay doesn’t get published? It’s crushing. It’s debilitating. It makes you give up. I’ve seen oh so many people give up when their focus is solely on the product.
When you focus on the process, you are more likely to have greater perspective. You can rely on the fact that this story didn’t get published, but another will. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for process AND publication. It’s just where you put the focus. When you focus on process, you are always working on your craft, and someday, all your work will be published and your voice heard. You don’t need to put so much focus on just this single story, or frankly, just this one novel. There are many many more novels to come.
When you’re in process, you are also working on a lot of different stories, essays, books at one time. So your focus is dimensional, not one-dimensional.
For authors of novels, it’s tremendously easy to focus on the product alone because you’ve spent so many years writing one piece. But what can happen is this: the soul asks you to write something in the novel. What the soul is asking one of your characters to do is just plain weird, just too out there. You worry: But will that stop it getting published? I want it published. So you ignore the soul and write what you think the public wants to hear. Then you lose the whole point of why you started writing in the first place, to express the soul.
If you focus on process, you know to listen to the soul’s message, because really that’s the only message worth listening to.