paper doll, mixed media, www.carolineallen.com
I received several emails about the Product vs Process blog, where I discussed the need to focus more on the writing process than on the product. Each person asked for clarity on what process really means.
When you’re writing a short story, an essay, or a chapter of a novel or memoir, as you are doing so, you learn how to do characterization, setting, plot and theme.
If as you’re learning aspects of how to do, say, vivid dialogue, you think: “Oh, this is going to make MY book great, and I’m going to sell it and be able to quit my day job and write all day,” you’re thinking product. It’s not healthy. It’s not necessarily realistic. The focus is too narrow, too egotistical, too small minded. It’s the mark of an amateur writer, because anyone who’s been in the process a long time has learned great humility.
I have a few friends who have novels published with reputable New York City publishers and even after their first book, they weren’t able to quit their day jobs.
If, though, as you’re learning dialogue techniques, applying them and they’re succeeding, you think: “Oh, so that’s how dialogue is done! Now I know how to do dialogue for all current and future writing projects,” you’re thinking process. It makes your fingers tingle as you type; it fills your belly with joy, it makes you feel like a flock of birds taking flight over the river. That’s process.
One is a closed fist, the other an open palm. One involves the ups and downs of success one day and disappointment the next, the other an ongoing contentment with a rich learning process, no matter what happens.