On Writing

My Writing Process – PART I – AND FREE STUFF!

Dedicated Vanessa Shields follower Penny-Anne Beaudoin recently sent me these
I’m curious to know if you use things like morning pages or artist dates (the Julia Cameron program), or if you do other things to help you settle down to write. You’ve written memoirs, fiction, YA fiction, poetry, articles – but which of these demands the most of your heart?  Which do you resist writing the most?  Which gives you the most freedom to self-reveal? I confess I’m very curious ( a.k.a just plain nosey) but I think your readers would be very interested too in such a post.  Think about it, m’kay?
Good lordy, me loves her! Sigh. Indeed this topic, my writing process, is a biggie. I think I need to answer her one question at a time.

RE: I’m curious to know if you use things like morning pages or artist dates (the Julia Cameron program), or if you do other things to help you settle down to write.
Morning pages and/or artist dates a la Julie Cameron program. (FYI – Julia Cameron is a goddess of writing and all things creative. In her book ‘The Artist’s Way‘ she suggests writing three pages of free-hand every morning when you wake up. a.k.a. Morning Pages. Artist dates are commitments to yourself to carve our time specifically for doing creative work or something that matters to you.)
I have done both Morning Pages and Artist Dates. For me, Morning Pages come and go. I find I go to them when I feel less tired than usual (which is not usual!). Or when I’m going through something particularly emotional or thought-mangling, that I need the extra writing time first thing in the morning to help me get through the day. I suggest this tool to all writers, however, in every class that I teach. I think we can all learn from this unique creative process. As far as it having a direct relation to my writing, I have to say that yes, they do affect my writing. If they relieve stress and tension in my  mind and body, then my mind and body will better be able to write.
I do keep a journal. I have since I was 8 years old. While I may not journal first thing in the morning, it is a major part of my writing life. My life on the pages of a journal, written in pen by my own hand is an integral part of who I am. I always say that writing in a journal has kept me sane…or insane, depending on how I’m feeling. Both are completely acceptable as far as I’m concerned.
I have shelves full of journals. I’ve kept every one that I filled since I started writing. Photo evidence here:I agree with Julia when she writes that there is a mind body connection that we can tap into creatively if we write using pen and paper. I feel it and I use it.
When I write poetry, my instinct is to write it on paper first. I rarely head right to the computer. I also am never (ok, mostly never) anywhere without pen and paper so I can write down ideas. Ideas come to me at THE MOST INCONVENIENT times. For example: while driving, while doing dishes, while falling asleep.
So in an effort to not lose these fleeting ideas, I always carry a pen and a writing book around with me. I keep it in my mom-purse ‘cuz that’s the bag I carry around the most. If I’m out of paper, I write on napkins or receipts or whatever I can get my hand son. Here is my current little black book (it’s not always black, by the way). I bought this baby at Dollarama. They have lovely little notebooks for…wait for it…one dollar!
*Not sure why the font has changed.*
As you can see by what’s inside, it’s not pretty. Words are scrawled in a frantic attempt to remember what my brain is spewing out or has been trying to hold on to until the pen and paper was available. You can also see that there is a page ripped out. When I’m ready to write the poem or use the writing that’s in the book, sometimes I’ll rip it out.
Hmmm. The Writing Vault. I forgot about that idea…see, this stuff works!
Here’s an example of me writing on ‘anything I can get my hands on’.
The top page is written on the back of this:
(So now you know I didn’t go for that Xray on my ankle.) Like I said. I use what I can find if my little notebook isn’t with me.
As far as Artist Dates go, I think going to the movies or watching movies is the best gift I can give myself. I’ve worked in the film industry for over ten years. I love films and the art of filmmaking, including writing screenplays. For me, when I’m slumpin’, I crave the big screen, a big ‘ole bag of hot buttered popcorn, some chocolate and some pop. Going to the theatre makes me feel alive in a way only going to the theatre can make me feel. I love watching films alone too. In fact, that’s my fav. The last film I saw by myself was ‘Rock of Ages’ (yep, Tom’s in it). The most recent film I saw was ‘The Dark Night Rises’. The next film I want to see is Woody Allen’s ‘To Rome, With Love‘. I love, love, love Woody Allen and Cameron Crowe. I get inspired when I watch films, be it from my couch or an IMAX giant theatre seat. The films I watch and have watched definitely affect my writing. I want to write like films make me feel. Does that make sense? I love how films bring words to a visual existence. I think I’m a very visual writer, and I bet it has something to do with how much I love and learn from films.
Reading also is an uber gift I give myself. I just finished reading Libba Bray’s ‘Going Bovine‘. I love all John Green and Judy Bloom books. I’ve recently read: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (who I’d love to smooch and write with), An Abundance of Katherines by John Green and Going Bovine. I’m currently reading: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo and Model Home by Eric Puchner.
As far as ‘settling down’ goes…well, that’s a good way to put it. But, I can’t say I ever really feel ‘settled’ until I’m actually sitting down and writing. My brain goes and goes and goes. The energize bunny’s got nothing on me. What settles my body and mind the most is when I let it (them) write. Unleash. Unload. And let the magic happen.
I can tell you that when I write my mid-to-lower back hurts because I have poor posture, my feet are ALWAYS FREEZING, my fingertips get cold, and I forget to eat and drink.
Mon dieu, the time is catching up to me. I must go.
I hope that answers your first question! More to come!
Oh, and if you’ve made it this far, drop me a comment. I have some FREE STUFF TO GIVE AWAY.
Let me help you with your ‘I need a cool book to carry around and write in’ woes. 

7 thoughts on “My Writing Process – PART I – AND FREE STUFF!

  1. Oh my god, Vanessa, this was wonderful! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this! Can’t wait for the next installment. For some reason, not sure why yet, I need to break open the writing process, see what works for other writers, and what doesn’t, what helps them express their gift and what impedes it. This is helping immensely! I’m deeply grateful. And there’s even pictures! What could be better?


    1. I break my process all the time to read other writer’s blogs/stuff. It really helps with my inspiration and confidence! Looks like you’ll be getting some new writing books!!! woohoo! As always, thanks for reading! More to come!


  2. What a great post, Vanessa. I have been keeping a writing journal of sorts, on and off, but I think I could help things along if I made a point of doing more freewriting than I do. I used a pocket Moleskine for parking ideas of all sorts. I left a few pages blank in the front so I could make a table of contents of sorts for the research-y bits and things I feel I might want to keep a tab on for future projects. Some of my writing students really love the idea of being able to rest their ideas a bit and have a resource they can dip into when they’re running a bit dry.


    1. Thanks for reading, Sonia! I love Moleskines for writing books. In fact, I often give them as gifts to writer friends – they love them too! Smart idea about leaving room for a table of contents. You’re much more organized than I in this regard! I’d like to send you a set of writing books FOR FREE since you read and made a comment. I’ll send you a message via email to get them to you! Thank you again for reading! I hope you come back often! And tell all your friends (selfless promotion…sorry!).


      1. I too use Moleskines. Vanessa introduced me to them. Brilliant idea about the Table of Contents! Ingenious!


  3. A technical question, my dear – what does “Your comment is awaiting moderation” mean? Is a panel of judges looking it over, hunting for immoderate words and phrases? Just curious.


    1. It means I have to go into my wordpress site and approve your comment – so it will show up here on the site, and so i can reply to it. no judges..well, unless you include me as the judge! and, by george, i’d never judge you!! good question…once again!


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